“Fat letters” from schools stir up controversy

 
By Laura Mize • Published: November 8th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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If your child was overweight, would you know?

Despite the prevalence of childhood obesity in America, research has shown that many parents don’t recognize it in their kids.

Because parents have the most say in a child’s diet and activities, this lack of awareness is bad news. For America to successfully fight childhood obesity, parents must play a key role.

To promote parental awareness, some states involve schools. According to a recent article in the journal Pediatrics, 21 states require in-school body mass index screening or similar measures. Some states even call for letters to parents detailing their children’s results.

These so-called “fat letters” have stirred up no small controversy. State and education leaders say they are needed to engage parents. Angry parents call the letters invasive. Meanwhile, some people warn the practice may lead to bullying of kids or eating disorders.

All these views seem to have some merit. But whatever you think of these letters, don’t forget the truly important issue here: children’s health.

Moms and dads should know excess weight in kids is no joke. Dismissing persistent extra pounds as “baby fat” or something kids outgrow might not be wise. Childhood obesity causes serious problems, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more. Many obese kids become obese adults.

Kids need regular checkups with height and weight measurements. Doctors can offer tips for eating healthy and boosting activity. And the suggestions aren’t just for kids, either. Adopting a healthy lifestyle as a family will help keep junior from feeling singled out. Also, focus on health and feeling good rather than weight and appearance when you talk with kids to protect their self image.

Strive for family wellness. Maybe one day, the obesity epidemic and fat letters will be things of the past.