No point in telling parents about children's weight?

Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:06pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - School polices that let parents know when their children are overweight or obese appear to have little impact on the problem, according to a U.S. study.

In the last decade, almost all public schools in California collected information about the height and weight of fifth, seventh and ninth graders, but only some schools opted to send the results to parents -- giving Kristine Madsen, at the University of California, San Francisco, a chance to evaluate the impact of that notification.

She found that, years later, children whose parents were told they were overweight were no more likely to have lost weight at that point than children whose parents were not notified, according to a report published in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.

So perhaps schools should concentrate their efforts on interventions that have the most impact, such as making sure that school lunches are healthier, and increasing the use of physical activity.

"Physical education is probably the most underused public health tool we have," she told Reuters Health.

"We really would urge schools to make sure their environments are supporting physical activity to the extent possible."

Her findings were based on data from nearly 7 million children.

Letting parents know their children are too heavy could still have an impact, Madsen said, noting that most parents were notified by letter, which some may not have gotten.

In addition, almost none of the letters used the terms "overweight" or "obese," instead referring to body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight relative to height -- which some parents may not have understood.   Continued...

<p>Children and teens take off from the starting line for the annual run/walk for patients and their friends and families at The Children's Hospital in Aurora, Colorado June 5, 2010. The Children's Hospital host a 10-week Shapedown Program, which has a non-diet approach to weight management, aims to teach families how to make healthier food choices as part of a drive against rising obesity rates in the United States, a cause taken up by First Lady Michelle Obama. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>