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A concerned member of the human race

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The City's BMI Funhouse--in Which Few Have Fun

I read a follow-up story in the NY Post entitled "City to rethink distribution of schoolkids' Fitnessgrams."  The gist of the story seemed to be that Gwendolyn Williams won a big victory.  The City "may" no longer ask kids to carry home poorly sealed envelopes containing their potentially disturbing BMI reports.

I suppose this is all very nice.  There is a bigger issue, however.  Stories have popped up of perfectly healthy and incredibly athletic kids who are told, in effect, that they are fat, including one Mia who is a "trim" gymnast.  Athletic boys are also apparently harassed (see here).

As witnessed by these stories, the BMI is not a good measure of overall health. Physical ed. teachers should encourage healthy and physically active lives, but they should not be asked to compile statistics which belie the real health level of kids just as standardized tests and VAM belie the real quality of an education.  Ironically, I wrote about this in a post entitled "Unhealthy Obsessions" two weeks ago.

Some health specialists and certainly many parents and concerned citizens find these BMI measurements less than helpful.  I would not want these same letters sent directly to parents.  Some children may open them before their parents.  Some may find them lying around the house.  Some may hear of the letter and quiz their parents.  And, some parents may share the information willingly with their kids.  

This information can have all kinds of adverse effects.  Some kids may compare their numbers.  Some may starve themselves to get the best numbers.  Some may be devastated.  Some may develop eating disorders.

Based on the stories that I have read, these one-sided BMI results distort the real quality of children's health like a funhouse mirror, but without the element of fun!  

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