Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When the "F" on your report card means "Fat"

It seems that Massachusetts is on the front line for controversial education reforms. Remember a few weeks ago when the Provincetown school district decided to update their condom policy? Well, if nothing else, Massachusetts is giving us plenty to think about!

Now from Medway, Massachusetts, there is a new trend. Schools have started weighing students, calculating their Body Mass Index (BMI) and then sending home a "Fitness Report Card" to parents. An angry mother took information to a Fox News TV station in Boston. A Fox News correspondent offered the opinion that this new policy demonstrates a "lack of respect" for the parents and pediatricians responsible for making heath decisions for the students.

Obesity in children and teens has been big in the news lately. First Lady Michelle Obama has been promoting a campaign to end childhood obesity, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has started his Food Revolution campaign to change the way we eat in the United States. Obviously obesity in teens has huge implications for their physical health.

But what about mental health? Studies show that obese teens are more likely to be bullied than peers of a normal weight. In addition, bullying can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. These mental health problems can last well into one's adult years. Even if an overweight teenager loses weight, the insecurities do not necessarily go away.

Chances are, overweight teens already know they are larger than their peers. Is a Fitness/Fatness report card necessary? Will it do more harm than good? Or, conversely, is this the catalyst needed to propel parents to help their children lead healthier lives?

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