Obesity Report Cards -- A good idea or waste of money?

| 18 Comments

As recently reported in The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has proposed a far reaching anti-obesity campaign in an effort to reverse the trend of growing waistlines. The initiative includes a proposal to provide “BMI Report Cards” to Massachusetts school children. Under this plan, public schools would be required to measure the height and weight of 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th grade students and calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI) with this data to determine if a student is overweight. That information would be sent home with the student, along with detailed advice on proper nutrition and exercise.  

According to a Future of Children article on the role of schools in obesity prevention, BMI Report Cards have shown some promise in school districts where they have been implemented, but they are not without controversy. In particular, if they are delivered in a vacuum without other environmental changes, they can be a wasted effort. Specifically, they must be part of a comprehensive approach that includes providing healthy food choices and eliminating junk food offerings in the schools, making health education part of the curriculum, providing quality physical education on a regular basis, and making time for recess.
 
These changes are not easy, as noted in our policy brief, “Fighting Obesity in the Public Schools.” But they must be part of the overall effort. Providing BMI Report cards while continuing to offer junk food in school or cutting recess and P.E. is not only counterintuitive, but potentially a waste of education dollars. In this time of drastic school budget cuts, we cannot afford to throw money at an effort that is unlikely to yield comprehensive benefits. Without a doubt, we need to address the issue of childhood obesity.  But we need to do so holistically, realizing that providing information without a supportive environment in which to make needed changes is a waste of time and money.
 
For information on childhood obesity trends, see "Childhood Obesity:  Trends and Potential Causes," Patricia Anderson and Kristen Butcher
 
For a comprehensive overview, see The Future of Children:  Childhood Obesity
 
 

18 Comments

According to a Future of Children article on the role of schools in obesity prevention, BMI Report Cards have shown some promise in school districts where they have been implemented, but they are not without controversy.

Actually, they've never been shown to have positive results. The one and only citation given in the report is to a prospective article -- it didn't have any results reported at all. The Massachusetts program was later shown to be ineffective; I don't know of any other study of the results of a report card program.

Your post also skips mentioning the biggest concern, which is that "report cards" will encourage discrimination against, and poor self-image of, fat kids. Don't fat teens have enough troubles already?

Thank you for your recent comment. You are correct -- obesity report cards have failed to show promise and yet numerous districts continue to implement them. Moreover, there are anecdotal reports that that the data is not always correct or that families are confused by the information they receive. The money would be spent better on other obesity reducing activities.

Yours, Elisabeth Donahue

Thank you for making attempts to reduce the risk of child obesity.

Thanks for your interest in our site. We hope to publish a post every week or so on research contained in our longer volumes. Please pass on to friends and colleagues and stay in touch. You may enjoy the longer volume and policy brief on childhood obesity, that can be found under publications on the website. Feel free to print and recopy, free of charge.

Thank you for your work on childhood obesity. I have been working with a group of 6th grade children who designed a "Wellness Report Card" for Lynnfield MA as part of Gov. Patrick's legislation...perhaps calling it a wellness report card and not a obesity report card can make a difference. The children were also concerned that the information go home in a sealed envelope or mailed to ensure privacy.

Hi,

Great site!!!! Obesity is the cause of many diseases. There are a lot of American's that are over weight. We have to stop eating FAST FOODS it is killing us. Good health is our greatest asset without good health we are doomed to die. We need to eat right, exercise and drink plenty of water to help maintain good health and well-being

Thanks for your post

Hello my name is Robert Martini I represent nutriant.com . When I was a younger kid I myself had an eating disorder. It was something hard to get through but with the right doctors and medication i overcame the battle. My goal in life is to make it easier for the children who suffer from the disease now then it was for me . I want to donate to this website and also want you to put my organization up because both of the websites will be great assets to each other. And the more information these people see the easier it will be for them to get through the battle. Hope to hear from you soon . Have a great day !

Though personally, I don't think the Obesity Report Card campaign will work much, but I do understand the need for the Governor to pay tax funds to combat this problem. This is because obesity will result in future health related illnesses that will cause even far more money to tackle.

Obesity prevention is very important because it is the cause of various health diseases. When i was younger i have also seen my sister suffering from eating disorder called anorexia. She felt that she was obese (but she actually was not) and she avoided food. It resulted in a great psychological impact in her. My whole family was worried about her and thank god that she is alright now after all her treatments. Personally i would say that avoiding too much of obesity in the body, but eating healthy food with proper diet can do wonders.

Hi, my name is Emma, I'm an author with edetoxify.com. I think obesity report card is a waste of resources and money. This not only does not help the children to motivate them to lose weight, it somehow put them into thinking that "I am fat" identity. I would think it's a absolute waste of resources.

Hi, my name is Emma, I'm an author with edetoxify.com. I think obesity report card is a waste of resources and money. This not only does not help the children to motivate them to lose weight, it somehow put them into thinking that "I am fat" identity. I would think it's a absolute waste of resources.

This comment refers to your size and is downright insensitive. Don’t let anyone get away with it. Respond with a silent, stunned look. You’ll send the message that you’ve been offended.

How about just getting the kids more active during the school day. It's not any better for children to be at a desk for eight hours than it is for an adult.

I used to say it would be a cold day in H E double toothpicks before I would comment on a post, but I have to let you know how much your post has helped me! Thanks!

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Meaningful site, I definetly read this really slow. People should never forget the importance of a healthy life. And from time to time a diet cannot do such bad, just try it.

"That information would be sent home with the student, along with detailed advice on proper nutrition and exercise."

And then what? If parents don't want to take school advice. What's next, hauling them off to jail? I think it's fine to send home material on the subject matter. But it's up to parents to follow it or not. Not forced on them through legislation.

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