Should Schools Tell Children They’re Overweight?

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A recent study by Dr. Kristine A. Madsen of the University of California, San Francisco found that school policies allowing officials to let parents know whether or not their children are overweight or obese seem to have little effect on the "problem" itself.


Note: I'm using quotes not because obesity isn't a potential health problem, but because this line seems a bit gray to me.

She found that children whose parents were told they were overweight were no more likely to have lost weight years later than children whose parents were not notified.

These findings, reported in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, suggest that school officials should concentrate their efforts on interventions that have the most impact, such as making school lunches healthier, and increasing the use of physical activity, Madsen noted.

"Physical education is probably the most underused public health tool we have," she said in an interview. "We really would urge schools to make sure their environments are supporting physical activity to the extent possible."

While I agree that physical education should be addressed in an environment where most children are spending the majority of their day, simply sending a child home with a note alerting their family that the school feels they are overweight doesn't seem like a solid weight loss tool — especially if their schools don't currently encourage physical activity and healthy lunch options. Personally, I can tell you with certainty that my school did not.

If pressed to recall what I had for lunch each day between the ages of 8 and 13, I vaguely remember a choice of regular or chocolate milk and some weird cherry-flavored icee thing –- aka the breakfast of champions.

Madsen does say that these schools are trying to be sensitive to how they word these letters and are likely well-intentioned:

Most parents were notified via letter, which some may not have received. Plus, almost none of the letters used the terms "overweight" or "obese," instead referred to kids' "body mass index," a measure of weight relative to height, which some parents may not understand, she added.

"Even if they see the letter, we think they may not get the message."

So I'll bring it to you, dear readers.

Since this current system is "not having an effect", do you think there's something that schools could be doing right now to help kids who might simply need additional guidance (barring all potential fat-shaming, of course) or is this a matter that begins —and should remain— at home?


Report cards on kids' weight don't make a difference [MSBNC]



If they were interested in athletic ability, or effort, they could simply send home the results of how a student performed on the President's fitness test, or whatever they're now using in schools. The student had this many sit-ups, with the average student having x number, and the recommended benchmark for students at that age being y number. The parent could decide whether it mattered to them, in the same way that they decide about a graded exam that's sent home for them to sign or see. It emphasizes healthy abilities, and not necessarily weight.

But good god, don't grade on that. Grade on effort, maybe. I remember the C that I got in high school because I couldn't run a mile fast enough, even though I did finally finish that mile. Ugh.