Schools have started taking a practical approach aimed at helping improve their students’ eating habits. According to Greg Walk a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, it takes the effort of both the school and guardians at home to help make the desired change.
Professor Welk was involved in a study published on Childhood Obesity which found that parents had an easier time adjusting their children’s lifestyle once they got educational material on BMI and results of BMI testing on the children. In the study, some parents got BMI results only, while the others were also given access to a Family Nutrition and Physical Activity screening tool (FNPA). This is an online tool that was created to help parents in evaluating their practices and home environments.
Welk said that the supplemental information offered during the study helped parents in studying BMI results, identifying strategies that would take home such as adding more vegetables and fruits in their children’s diet, limiting the amount of screen time, encouraging their children to become more active as well as ensuring that the kids got enough sleep. The study involved almost 1,500 parental reviews from 31 elementary schools in Pennsylvania.
Obesity in children is a situation that has impacted many children in the United States and in the year 2010, 21 states made a requirement to measure and collect BMI statistics on all school going children. Some of the schools did not require parental consent to conduct this BMI tests and Welk argues that none was needed because the testing is simple, fast and noninvasive. After the collection of data, they realized that the data was not useful unless they shared it with the parents. Schools can make changes in their diet but if children still engage in unhealthy eating patterns in their homes, ultimately challenges with obesity will never be adequately dealt with.
The Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics have permitted BMI screening to be used in school assessments. It is, however, important that the endorsed practices for evaluation and notification are followed in the process. Supplemental information, for example, FNPA are also advocated as they help parents get information which they can use in helping their children eat and live healthily.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every six children and teens in the US are affected by obesity. If giving parents information on BMI will help reduce obesity amongst children, then it is definitely welcome by both schools and parents alike.
Professor Welk believes that parents should also explore working closer with nutritionists who can help in developing healthy eating habits that will make food enjoyable while ensuring that the entire family unit is healthy and carrying the appropriate weight.
Welk is also currently working on getting grants that will help develop the way in which BMI data is shared among parents, the school, and pediatricians and ensuring all parents have access to FNPA platform.