I strongly disagree with the emphasis placed on a child's Body Mass Index (BMI) and also the use of the word "obesity" in President Obama’s taskforce. Children know what obesity means, and it is a pejorative term not likely to increase the self-esteem of any child determined to have a high BMI, while possibly causing many other serious health problems such as eating disorders.
Yet, Mrs. Obama’s plan contains four initiatives that I agree with: bringing healthy foods into the schools, emphasizing exercise once again, insisting on food labels that it doesn’t take a scientist to understand, and encouraging grocery stores to open in under-served communities. So why not continue with this strategy of stressing children’s health?
Granted, obesity causes many serious health problems that must be addressed .But I disagree with the program’s basis. Why emphasize the BMI test? That’s only one indicator of anyone’s health and not a very good one according to npr.com’s Keith Devlin. He writes, “The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual. The BMI was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian…. He was a mathematician, not a physician. He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population…. In other words, it is a 200-year-old hack.” Why use a 200-year-old hack to judge our children’s health?
The piece goes on to say that the BMI test doesn’t take into consideration bone mass, fat or muscle. So a guy on the football team with a large, dense bone structure and big muscles will have a high BMI and be in excellent health, but considered obese by the BMI standard.
Children determined to have high BMI will have one more reason to feel badly about themselves. It’s normal for adolescents to put on weight before a growth spurt and puberty. Children don’t need to feel like a disappointment to their parents because they don’t fit into our superficial society’s image of the perfect child.