Massachusetts Plan to Measure Weights of Children a Good Idea?

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Is weighing children and teens at school a good idea?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Massachusetts has jumped on the “free the obese” bandwagon. The ant-obesity plan goes before the Public Health Council next week, and broad support is expected.

The plan requires all major restaurant chains, including fast food restaurants, to prominently post all calorie counts on the menu as part of an anti-obesity campaign put forth by Gov. Deval Patrick. Many people are often shocked by the high number of calories in fast food— especially those that are supposed to be formulated for children.

On top of that, public schools will be required to measure the heights and weights of all first, fourth, seventh, and tenth graders to determine who is and who isn’t overweight.

The findings to the data collected will be sent home to parents with detailed advice on how to eat better, exercise more, and get healthier overall.

The process will go into effect next fall.

“People often really are not aware of what’s sitting on their plate – it’s a big portion, they’re talking to their friends, they have no way of knowing exactly what they’re eating,” said Dr. Caroline Apovian, Boston Medical Center’s Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center. “But if the information is sitting right in front of you . . . it’s hard to deny.”

But I have to wonder, will weighing the children and teens bring weight and “weight competition” to the forefront? Are we going to have an eating disorder issue on hand as children begin to share “weight results” just like grades on the last spelling test? Will the attention of the teachers, now shifting to BMI, not just academic performance, color how they view their students (unfortunately, past studies hint that it could)? How will it affect children’s self esteem and teenager body confidence? Yikes. I don’t get a good feeling about this part of the plan.Perhaps you remember the great “weight gradedebate and how it created havoc in the lives of children who thought something was “wrong” with them since they had “failed” on BMI?

SO what do you think?

Here is some feedback from readers (Boston Globe)

I have to feel bad for the poor overweight child who has few friends but does get validation from a positive relationship with teachers and other workers n the school. They will now be sending this child negative reports, even if academic and behavior issues are absent. It would be much better to encourage all students to walk more or eat healthy than to stigmatize individual students. –zendall

How about bringing back recess and requiring more time in P.E. class? NCLB has put so much emphasis on test performance that many schools have cut back the amount of time kids are allowed to be active. –Andrea_Q

Calorie counting only gets one so far. Most people know roughly what a food’s count is. Exercise, gym , and, yes, recess are important components in addressing this concern. General activity is too. Banishing Fluffanutter sandwiches may grab headlines, but trivializes this serious issue. –amoreperfectunion

Government weighing your kids?? And you’re okay with that?? Probably citing “costs” to society. Shades of “your body belongs to the state.” Except we are not a socialist state, we stand for individuals to be free to be left alone. When The State weighs you then we have entered into “you will be healthy for the state.” Health as not a private matter but as a duty, punishable by “fine” (e.g. stigmatization, taxation, etc.) Behold the new state religion Health. And you lemmings with no life of your own that you have to stick your nose into other’s nod and say “a good thing.” I wonder if even when they begin calling it Child Abuse to have a heavy child and take your child away to state run camps that you’ll complain then. That’s how deaf and blind and dependent on the state to fix or control your life you’ve become. When the state starts weighing your kid what on earth do you think will happen next????? –nycclash

Give us your take. What do you think?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

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