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Archive for Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Measure may fight youth obesity

August 23, 2006

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— Kansas health officials say the state could take a tip from Arkansas on how to reduce childhood obesity.

Last week, Arkansas reported that the number of children at risk of becoming overweight in the state had dropped slightly, reversing an upward trend.

One of the main things Arkansas does that Kansas doesn't is measure the body-mass index of public schoolchildren. BMI is an indicator of whether people carry an appropriate amount of weight for their height.

The Kansas Health Institute, a nonprofit health policy and research organization, is surveying Kansas schools on nutrition and physical activity issues and recently asked school leaders if tracking BMI was something they would be interested in doing, said Kim Kimminau, senior vice president for research and analysis with the institute.

"We asked school administrators, physical education teachers, superintendents, 'What do you think of this idea?'" Kimminau said. "The overwhelming support by our respondents, 84 to 90 percent, agreed this kind of information would be helpful."

Arkansas began measuring BMI in 2004. The percentage of Arkansas schoolchildren overweight or at risk of becoming overweight was 37.5 percent this year, down from 38.1 percent a year earlier. If a child has a higher than normal BMI, the school sends a note home to inform the parents.

BMI is a popular way to gauge whether a person is overweight. It is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by his or her height in meters.


Jenna Copp joins her Woodlawn School third-grade classmates in doing a set of exercises in a physical education class. Kansas health officials may follow the example of Arkansas, which has seen a drop in childhood obesity rates since it began annually measuring the body-mass index of public schoolchildren.

Jenna Copp joins her Woodlawn School third-grade classmates in doing a set of exercises in a physical education class. Kansas health officials may follow the example of Arkansas, which has seen a drop in childhood obesity rates since it began annually measuring the body-mass index of public schoolchildren.

"The runaway train has been stopped in Arkansas," said Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has gained fame by losing 110 pounds since 2003 when doctors diagnosed him with diabetes.

The Kansas Health Institute is collecting information statewide on the level of nutrition and availability of physical fitness in public schools. The study goes into, for example, how many vending machines are in schools.

Kimminau said in gathering information from schools, there was a positive feeling that schools, along with parents, want to be part of helping prevent childhood obesity.

"The schools are telling us it really is going to take a village," she said.

The rate of overweight children ages 6 to 11 has doubled in the last 20 years nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health risks of obesity include a higher rate of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other problems.

Officials with the Lawrence school district are discussing whether to measure BMI.

"The BMI approach is actually one of the only approaches that measures whether you're making success," said Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent of schools.

Based on the success from Arkansas, Passman said Lawrence school officials probably would consider the measure more seriously.

Patrick Parker, director of pharmacy and intravenous therapy at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said measuring children's BMI would give parents and health officials a baseline of information. Parker serves on a board that advises the school district on health issues.

"It's not intended to make someone feel bad," Parker said. "It tells you where you are and whether what you have done is actually useful."

Parker said he supported measuring BMI but said parents must approve of it before the district should take it on.

"It's important that the community understand the potential value," he said.

Comments

Nikki May 8 years, 4 months ago

I suppose it's a good idea, except BMI is not all that good. I know people who have low body fat, and high muscle. According to the BMI, they are over weight. Of course there aren't many 10 year old body builders, but still.

belle 8 years, 4 months ago

I think it's a horrible idea. The child obesity problem is much larger than just weighing each child and telling them they're fat according to the BMI index. It's only going to cause more mental anguish, eating disorders, etc. Not to mention, the taunting that will come from the skinny students. Let's face it, kids can be mean. How about nutrition classes for the parents, or proper nutrition hand-outs and flyers. There will be parents that pay no attention to it, but then are those parents going to do anything about it when the teacher weighs their kid and tells their kid he/she is fat? I guess I just see this as something that the parents need to take control over. Let's not make the children pay for it.

prioress 8 years, 4 months ago

When this first came out in AK, I was skeptical. I am still withholding judgement, but information is always good. Perhaps the letters from schools will shock some parents into action. Federal legislation, tied to the school lunch program, is encouraging a "slim down" program for our youth. While the legislators' motivation is suspect (worried about health care costs more than anything) if it spurs people into action we will all be better. Ironically, as recently as 4-5 generations ago, being a bit "fat" was a sign of prosperity since one was demonstrating there was adequate food in the house. Now, 100 years later, most people are running away from calories instead of hunting them all day.

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years, 4 months ago

I believe it all sarts at home and to do this in school with all the other kids around just might make a low esteam child feel even worse about themselves and studies show that just helps fuel overeating. Also not everyone on the planet was meant to be a size 3 so all things must be taken into consideration. Education on eating and exercise is the key and if you start teaching at a young age about good foods then as they grow it will help guide them to good choices.

belle 8 years, 4 months ago

Plus, if you take in account that doing this isn't even a whole percentage point decrease. I would consider this ineffective. 38.1 down to 37.5

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years, 4 months ago

offtotheright now disgust is a very strong word for me I just want to slap the parents. I know this is not a good thought but I do believe it all starts with the parents. I know genetics plays a big part in your body make up but you can still fight that.

prioress 8 years, 4 months ago

"I know genetics plays a big part in your body make up but you can still fight that."
+++++++++ Perhaps, and we fight our evolutionary past on some of this. On the other hand, most fatties need to eat less and move more. As a matter of fact, I've just written the world's shortest diet book and all of you get your copy for free!

betti81 8 years, 4 months ago

My question is what did Arkansas actual DO to achieve these results. Taking a BMI seems to be their measurement of choice to track progress (maybe not the best, but in order to see if a program is working, there must be something measureable about it), fine, but other than the letter what other actions were taken, if any? Did they increase P.E. classes? Did they decrease candy/soda machines? Or did they just send a letter home? These are the important questions. If there was an improvement (you can argue the significance of the percentages, but that is not my point) I find it hard to believe that simply measuring the childrens' BMI caused them to lose weight.

I hope that makes sense...

as_I_live_and_breathe 8 years, 4 months ago

I had a very good friend who wanted to be thin so bad. She got on the phen-fen and blew out her vital organs..... died at 32 leaving a (thin) 5 year old son behind.

At her funeral I saw every woman in her family was at least 100 lbs overweight. She killed herself trying to be something she was never born to be.

MommaX you'd a been slapping people all afternoon and OTTR, you'd a been so disgusted you'd a puked. But it would have been great aerobic exercise.

prioress 8 years, 4 months ago

Very sad, and I'm sorry for your loss. Disease is terrible and we treat our women badly as a culture, at least in this respect. On the other hand, there are too many grossly overweight people and they (as well as the rest of us) will eventually pay for it.

Ken Miller 8 years, 4 months ago

You can't legislate diet, exercise or attitudes. Once again, it's time for parents and kids to take some PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and actually WORK ON healthy actions and attitudes. To that end, it's important that schools and local governments provide information on how to be "healthy" - but then it is up to kids and parents to follow the guidelines. Put down the joysticks, my little urchins, and go play some hoops.

nomorebobsplease 8 years, 4 months ago

What about the school lunch programs that offer chips and cheese (nachos) as a nutritious lunch for elementary age kids?? And the mass produced crustless PBJ's as an alternative? I think that as a whole, the school lunch program needs revamped.

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years, 4 months ago

I to am sorry for the loss of your friend have one that also took the miricle pill. Prioress I did state that getting off your bottem and good sense eating are also keys to maintaing weight but not all people are meant to be "small" some people are meant to be a 10 not a 3 but when you see a 3rd grade student that weighs 150 it makes people want to slap the parents and say hey get them out side into some kind of activity. I see overeating the same as any addiction, yet realize that some people are just going to be a little heavier than others obese is another issue than being 5lbs overweight.

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years, 4 months ago

not all people can be a supermodel, thank goodness. That is all I was trying to say I guess. Besides supermodles always look wayyyyyy to thin to me. The flip side of the weight issue.

prioress 8 years, 4 months ago

"I think that as a whole, the school lunch program needs revamped." ++++++++ It is in the process of being studied and "revamped." www.kn-eat.org. BTW: I agree on the "personal responsibility" issues as well, but some folks need to be kickstarted.

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years, 4 months ago

kickstarted ouch don't have enough butt for that:)

prioress 8 years, 4 months ago

"obese is another issue than being 5lbs overweight." ++++++++ I agree completely. The recent campaigns are not related to those who are "packing a few pounds" and are focused on those who are so obese in their early years they are eating (and resting) their way towards a difficult adulthood and an early death.

prioress 8 years, 4 months ago

"obese is another issue than being 5lbs overweight." ++++++++ I agree completely. The recent campaigns are not related to those who are "packing a few pounds" are are focused on those who are so obese in their early years they are eating (and resting) their way towards a difficult adulthood and an early death.

lacoov 8 years, 4 months ago

FYI: AK is the abbreviation for Alaska, AR is Arkansas.

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