In Florida, mom Laura Cacdad got a letter from her daughter’s school nurse telling her that she needed to get her daughter’s health assessed. When Cacdad called the school, the nurse told her that her daughter’s BMI was too high according to state standards.
Because her daughter was able to read the letter, she then asked her mom if she was fat.
According to the article in their local newspaper, the mom said that her daughter’s doctor had never expressed concern over her daughter’s weight and that her daughter was healthy in every way.
I remember getting weighed as a child. We all lined up outside the nurse’s office and stood on the scale. Everyone of us knew why we were there but no one thought about what the nurse would do with our number. She would write down our weight on her clipboard and then the next person stood on the scale. As far as I knew, my parents never heard from the school on whether or not I was overweight.
However, the kids teased each other over who might be the fattest in the classroom. Back when I was in school, there were few overweight children. Usually one, or maybe two, in each elementary school classroom.
Today; however, about 30 percent of school aged kids are overweight or obese. (source) The increase in kids who struggle with their weight is very concerning because that weight often stays with them into adulthood, which sets them up for a lifelong struggle with weight and increased health risks.
My question is, do school nurses need to be the ones to tell parents their kids are overweight? Don’t parents already know that their child is overweight and that being overweight can impact their child’s health?
One would assume so; however, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics says not really. The study authors, who were interviewed in an article in the Huffington Post, indicated they found
. . . that 31 percent of parents of obese or overweight children considered their child’s health to be excellent or very good, and 28 percent of parents did not view their child’s weight as a health concern.
There could be several reasons for this, one of which is the fact that the prevalence of obesity in America makes overweight people feel as though they are at a normal weight because they look like almost everyone else. I call it the new normal, where being at a healthy weight is unusual and being overweight is now considered normal.
Parents probably find it easy look at their kids in relation to other kids they know and assess their health based on what they see around them. If each of their child’s friends look just like their child, everyone must be healthy – right?
Unfortunately, this assumption can lead to false perceptions of whether a child is overweight or not. I have a friend whose child is very heavy but she honestly does not seem to see it. She talks about other children who need to lose weight and says she is glad her child does not have a weight problem and loves that her child is active in sports. I see her child’s weight problem but she does not.
This brings me back to my original question – who needs to tell parents their child is overweight? Is it really the role of the school or should it be reserved for the child’s physician?
I still remember the line snaking outside the nurse’s office for weigh-in day and even though I was not overweight, I felt stressed. I can imagine what an overweight child feels as they stand in line waiting to step up on the scale. Even though the weights are kept confidential, it brings up all kinds of feelings and issues around body image.
I fall on the side of the argument that weight is best left to be discussed between a parent and a child’s doctor rather than having children be weighed and measured by a school nurse and having that nurse send home a letter that a child may read and feel bad about. A better way is for the school to send home general letters to every parent encouraging them to have their child seen for regular check-ups.
What do you think? Do parents need help knowing their child is overweight and where should that help come from? Diane