BMI-Related Messages Having Little Effect on Health of Children

Schools are accomplishing little by communication this information, study says

About 40 percent of children in the United States live in states where school messages are routinely sent, parents about the results of weight measurements taken at school, according to a new study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics

But according to this same study, such alerts are having little if any positive effect on health outcomes for children.

“This was a pretty convincing study,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, who was not involved in the research.

“Based on these results, schools and state departments of education should seriously consider whether BMI measurement in schools should stop altogether,” Radesky said.

The study, led by pediatrician Dr. Kristine Madsen, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health and faculty director for the Berkeley Food Institute, followed nearly 29,000 kids in grades 3 to 7 in California over a three-year period.

At the end, the study found the BMI missives to parents had no impact on pediatric obesity and may decrease a child’s satisfaction with their body, although the results were mixed.

Such BMI report cards “increase parents’ weight-related anxiety but provide little guidance about evidence-based health promotion strategies and offer no structural support for behavior change,” said Dr. Tracy K. Richmond, an eating disorder specialist at Boston’s Children’s Hospital in an accompanying editorial.

The editorial was co-written by clinical psychologist Idia Thurston, an associate professor of psychology and public health at Texas A&M University and registered dietitian Kendrin Sonneville, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“In our own research, we found that youths with elevated BMIs who reported their weight to be ‘just about right’ engaged in healthier behaviors and had fewer depressive symptoms, lower adoption of disordered weight control behaviors, and less weight gain from adolescence to adulthood,” the trio wrote.


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