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Understanding, Addressing Body Mass Index

Letters notifying parents of their children's BMI were sent out last month and school officials are working to improve the statistics.

In the last 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled and is increasing among younger children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If a child is obese by the age of 13, he or she is 70 percent likely to be an obese adult, the USDA tells us.

Plug into that equation the 314 Milford 7th graders who had their Body Mass Index calculated earlier this school year, and you'll find that 40 percent of them are at high risk of carrying obesity into adulthood.

But it's not too late to turn around that statistic and start taking advantage of the numerous activities Milford has to offer to keep kids (and adults, for that matter) healthy.

Superintendent Bob Tremblay encourages families not to think of BMI as an obstacle, but as motivator toward health. 

School-based BMI screening was initiated as a mandate from the state Department of Public Health. The screening was intended to raise awareness for parents and provide a first step toward intervention for children who are overweight and obese.

The issue, brought to the forefront last year when First Lady introduced her "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity, is quantified in part through BMI, a number calculated from a person's weight and height and used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or greater. 

A total of 1,161 children in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10 in the Milford schools had their BMI calculated in January. Children fell into the underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese categories. The majority of students fell into the healthy weight category.

According toTremblay and School Nursing Director Judy Dagnese, the BMI statistics revealed that 29 percent to 33 percent of the elementary students and 40 percent of the 7th and 10th graders in Milford are overweight and obese, compared to 10 percent to 20 percent national average cited by the CDC.

The table below shows the results (each number is a student).

Grade

Underweight

(<5th percentile)

Normal

(>5th and <85th percentile)

Overweight

(>85th percentile but <95th)

Obese

(>95th percentile)

1 17 205 44 48 4 5 210 52 55 7 8 182 69 55 10 2 127 47 35

Parents and guardians were notified of the child’s status by mail with recommendation for follow up with an appropriate healthcare provider. (More information is available here: www.mass.gov/massinmotion.)

Milford school administrators say they take these numbers seriously and are instituting changes. 

They have revamped the Student Wellness Policy with components of nutrition, physical activity and wellness policy in alignment with the Medical Awareness Policy. In addition, the district adheres to the ‘Massachusetts A La Carte Food and Beverage Standards to Promote a Healthier School Environment’ Action for Healthy Kids.

Tremblay recommended that families work with the schools by utilizing the many community resources for exercise and nutrition, such as:

  • “Physical Education in our Schools night,” is 6 to 7:45 p.m. March 31 at .
  • is currently in the midst of a “Jump rope for Heart” fundraiser.

Healthy Kids Week, from April 11 to April 15, is loaded with opportunities for family fun, healthy eating and exercise:

  • Healthy kids “Olympics” at the
  • will offer free swim
  • Woodland  and 5K and ½ mile fun run on April 9
  • Cooking with Carla Tuttle in conjunction with , , and students on Milford cable
  • “Walk in Progress” when all the Milford schools will have children and staff walking  nonstop
  • 1st Annual Family Fitness Run on Sunday, May 22.

Empowering your family's health means simple and consistent changes that can help ward off a lifetime of challenges obesity presents.

Deanna Runeman March 29, 2011 at 01:59 PM
I agree with you and understand how BMI works. I root for better foods in school and more activity and better foods at home.My analogy springs from one of the commentors. She said parents who are angry must have kids with high BMI's. Like there can be no other reason for disagreeing with this approach. My point is, I don't want my daughters at vulnerable ages weighed in a school environment. I understand the need to fight childhood obesity, but I would hazard a guess that parents of obese children know it and either are working to fight it or don't care. They don't need a note sent home from school to confirm what they can see. Sometimes heavy kids grow into fit adults and plenty of thin kids (who never learn limits and healthy eating because of high metabolism at a young age) turn into heavy adults. There is no secret formula. I don't own a scale at home and I never want my daughters thinking that is how they measure their worth in the world.
Brenda Wheelock March 30, 2011 at 06:41 PM
If the Milford School Department decides to overhaul their school lunch program, perhaps they could consult with the Framingham Food Service Director, Brendan Ryan. He started the job in 2006. I'm curious how his new program is working. You can read more about him here: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/homepage/x1707002308
Debbie March 31, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Weight is such a touchy subject, especially when you're dealing with young girls. I do have to agree with Deanna that to have the children screened in a school environment could be quite harmful emotionally. My question would be, "Where are your pediatricians?" My daughter is overweight and we have worked with her pediatrician for years with regards to her weight, but more importantly her health. He referred her to a program at Children's Hospital a few years back and it was wonderful. With the changes we made as suggested by a nutrionist and doctor, she has been able to lose a few pounds, but most importantly it has kept her healthy. She will never be a "skinny" girl and I really don't need anyone telling me what her BMI is. Her pediatrician tracks her every year. But for children that rely on school lunches, that is a problem. My daughter very rarely buys school lunches and we watch portion size, sugar and fat. It's not a matter of making the kids eat only healthy snacks/meals , it is a matter of monitoring the portions, sugars, fats and ingredients and staying away from high fructose corn syrup. I have worked really hard to make sure my daughter has a positive self image and is not obsessed with being "thin".
Proud Father March 31, 2011 at 10:47 AM
Debbie...Nice to hear you and unfortunately a minority of working class families are taking control of your own life. It seems most need government to manage their lives for them. I sure am glad I am not in their shoes. The only thing the government does well is take care of their public union buddies.
Lisa Vasile March 31, 2011 at 05:18 PM
A few of the commentors mentioned decreasing High Fructose Corn Syrup as a method to make healthier choices. The commercials (by the corn growers of America) claim HFCS is just sugar made from corn and the FDA deams it 'safe for consumption'; I wanted to offer the readers a few articles to read. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100322204628.htm and http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/ There are also articles stating that HFCS is fine. My take is that too much of all sugar/fructose/HFCS is feeding the obesity issues in America.

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