BMI Report Cards Don’t Make the Grade

June 14, 2007

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Executive Director

The trend of schools reporting students’ body mass index (BMI) to parents continues to be a hot topic in the media and among school health advocates. We addressed the issue on our blog a few months ago, and this week Jeff Stier, associate director of the American Council on Science and Health, wrote about BMI report cards at the Huffington Post. 

While Stier believes in the importance of addressing childhood obesity, he writes that BMI report cards are “misguided” and “unlikely to produce the desired effect and may even result in some serious negative consequences.”

Stier goes on to suggest an approach that HSC continues to advocate: that schools and governments use public funding to address the obesity crisis in a constructive way, through wellness education and real opportunities for children to be active and eat nutritious food. Stier writes:

If we’re going to approach obesity from a legislative standpoint, let’s use our government’s energies to launch public health education campaigns and give parents some useful resources for treating the problem, such as information on how to shop for healthy foods and how to find ways to exercise with their children, rather than simple numbers and restatements of obesity/disease links. Placing BMIs on report cards does little to motivate parents or create solutions.

I could not agree more.

As I commented on Stier’s post, state governments should establish nutritional guidelines for school food, provide adequate funding so that schools can offer a healthy school meal, require schools to offer daily physical education, provide financial incentives for schools to make necessary capital improvements (such as adequate gym facilities, appropriate playgrounds, kitchen facilities and upgrades to cafeterias) and include comprehensive and ongoing nutrition education in the states learning standards.

As Stier says, the solution to our childhood obesity epidemic “might be in any number of school-based approaches, but it won’t be found printed on the report card.”