Laura York, Department of Public Health
Laura is the Director of the Coordinated School Health Program
When kids are healthy, they’re able to learn more and do better in school. Yet almost one-third of Massachusetts high school and middle school students are either overweight or obese. Public schools across the state are doing their part to help reverse this alarming statistic.
Massachusetts public schools have been measuring the height and weight of students for years. Starting this school year, schools will take it one step further by using these figures to calculate the Body Mass Index (BMI) of students in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10 and report the results to parents. BMI is a way to check if a child has a healthy weight compared to other children of the same age and sex. 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. In addition to health concerns, researchers have found that childhood obesity is associated with a number of social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. BMI FAQs
BMI results, along with educational materials, will be sent or directly communicated to the parents or guardians of each student screened. Parents will be encouraged to share the results with their health care provider and start a conversation about the best ways for their child to reach and stay at a healthy weight. Dealing with overweight and obesity early in life is easier than tackling it later on as an adult.
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.
Schools can help address this issue by providing high-quality health and physical education, physical activity programs and healthy food options on all school grounds. However, schools are only part of the solution. Parents and communities can also contribute by setting a healthy example for our future generation. Check out lots of suggestions on how to eat better and move more for all age groups, including specific tips for parents on the Mass in Motion site.
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