February 7, 2005
If you received a health grade last semester, it probably had
more to do with your performance in class called "Health,"
than it did with your actual medical state of being. Depending
on where you live, there are those who are trying to change all
"Van dePutte [a
state senator from San Antonio] is proposing a state law requiring
schools to weigh students, compute their body mass index, and
send that information
home on their report cards. ... Some parents in Texas are outraged.
'They don't need to tell us that to realize your kid is overweight,'
says parent Rosa Medellian. Dr.
Stephanie Setliff, who treats kids with eating disorders at the
Children's Medical Center in Dallas, also believes the proposal
is a bad idea. 'We know that eating disorders like anorexia nervosa
and bulimia nervosa can be triggered by one comment made from
a peer or a coach,' says Setliff. The state's largest teacher
group also opposes the bill, saying teachers should just teach.
'The school has a place to provide nutritional food and nutritional
information in health class, but they're not doctors,' says Eric
Allen with the Association of Texas Professional Educators."
Obesity is a problem.
"The percent of
children and teens who are overweight also continues to increase.
Among children and teens ages 6-19, 15 percent (almost 9 million)
are overweight according to the 1999-2000 data ... In addition,
the data shows that another 15 percent of children and teens ages
6 to 19 are considered at risk of becoming overweight. ... Although
children have fewer weight-related health problems than adults,
overweight children are at high risk of becoming overweight adolescents
and adults. Overweight people of all ages are at risk for a number
of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, high blood
pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer. Obesity can weaken
physical health and well-being, and can shorten life expectancy."
But obesity is not the
only problem, and there are those with valid concerns.
"It is estimated
that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder -- seven million
women and one million men
* One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
* Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
* Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an
eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental
* An estimated 10 - 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are
* Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental
* A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and
Associated Disorders reported that 5 - 10% of anorexics die within
10 years after contracting the disease; 18 - 20% of anorexics
will be dead after 20 years and only 30 - 40% ever fully recover
* The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times
higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females
15 - 24 years old.
* 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from
complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide
and heart problems"
While other schools have
not sent this information home on report cards, a precedent has
been set. There are concerns on both sides of the issue. So why
have some schools decided to conduct BMI assessments?
"Reasons to perform
BMI assessments of Arkansas school students
* Body Mass Index (BMI) screening is recommended by the American
Academy of Pediatrics for all children and adolescents
* Many parents do not understand the risks of childhood obesity
* Parents want and deserve to be informed if their children are
at risk for developing health problems
* Many children do not make regular visits to the doctor, and
when they do, most doctors do not routinely check BMI
* Screening for vision and hearing problems are currently conducted
in schools. BMI assessment is a screening tool to determine if
children are overweight, underweight or at risk for becoming over
* Parents of overweight children who are overweight, underweight
or at risk will be encouraged to seek counseling from their doctor,
school nurse, or other healthcare provider
* Preventing and / or treating childhood obesity is more effective
than treating obesity in adults
* Plans are being developed to perform BMI assessments and deliver
reports in a way that will be private, confidential and accurate"
Schools know that they
cannot tackle health issues alone. They are trying to get information
to parents, so that parents can connect with students -- and help
the students connect with a health care provider.
"A coordinated school
health program (CSHP) model consists of eight interactive components.
Schools by themselves cannot, and should not be expected to, address
the nation's most serious health and social problems. Families,
health care workers, the media, religious organizations, community
organizations that serve youth, and young people themselves also
must be systematically involved. However, schools could provide
a critical facility in which many agencies might work together
to maintain the well-being of young people."
Schools have been involved
with health screenings for decades: hearing, vision, even head
lice (to name a few). The information is then sent to the parents
-- who are expected to take appropriate action.
Questions of the Week:
How are BMI screenings and reports different from the other health
screenings that schools are currently conducting? How are they
similar? What roles should schools play in addressing health issues?
Why should schools play certain roles, and avoid others? What
roles should they avoid? How can schools work with parents, and
others in the community, to best address the health issues facing