Posted by Laura York
Laura is the Director of the Coordinated School Health Program
A key component of Mass in Motion includes a Public Health Council regulation passed in 2009 requiring public schools to measure the height and weight of students in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10 and use those figures to calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a method of determining if a child has a healthy weight compared to other children of the same age and sex.
The first year of data is now available in a newly released report, The Status of Childhood Weight in Massachusetts 2011, that includes data from the public school districts that submitted BMI results for the 2010-2011 school year. In total, screenings were performed on 250,000 students. This report reflects only one year of state-wide data which, while not adequate to establish trends, forms a picture of current obesity rates necessary to track future changes.
We know that helping children attain a healthy weight now, and stay at a healthy weight, may prevent serious illness later in life. Children with a high BMI are more likely to become overweight or obese adults and be at a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The first step is to understand the status of childhood obesity.
We are extremely grateful to our partners in the public schools for enabling us to collect this data. Establishing a baseline and tracking trends over time will help ensure we are implementing effective strategies to reduce obesity rates in Massachusetts.
Even if a child falls within a healthy BMI range, it is important for him to learn and develop healthy eating and physical activity habits. Besides improving health, physical activity is strongly linked to academic performance as shown in recent national evidence.
Check out the many suggestions on how to eat better and move more for all age groups, including specific tips for parents on the Mass in Motion site. For more information about BMI screening in schools, please visit our School Health Screening page.