New Regulations Require BMI Measurements For Schoolchildren

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The Massachusetts Public Health Council today voted to approve new statewide regulations that will require public schools to regularly perform Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings on all students, and to provide this important health information to parents. The newly-enacted regulations are part of the Mass In Motion anti-obesity initiative announced earlier this year by the Patrick Administration.

The purpose of the new regulation is to provide parents with important information on the health status of their child, and to help parents work with health care providers on ways to promote healthier eating and exercise habits for children. Recent data show that more than one-third of all middle school and high schools students in Massachusetts are considered either overweight or obese. The measure passed unanimously.

“We are committed to fighting obesity and promoting healthy weights for Massachusetts residents on multiple levels,” said Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach. “We know that children are greatly impacted by the obesity epidemic, and these new BMI regulations are designed to provide more information for parents to help lessen that impact.”

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Body Mass Index is a number calculated from a child’s weight and height, using a standardized formula. The new regulations require nurses in public schools to perform BMI screening for all children during the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th grades.

Each child’s BMI result will be provided to parents along with background information to help them understand how to interpret those results. Parents will also get tips on how they can help their child eat healthier and get more physical activity. The information will be mailed or otherwise directly communicated to parents in writing, and will not be shared with the child. Parents who do not want their child screened can opt out of the process at any time.

Aggregated BMI data will also be shared with the Department of Public Health (DPH), to help health officials gain a better understanding of trends in weight status among school-age children in Massachusetts. This data will not include student-specific BMI results.

The new regulations will be phased in over the next 18 months. During that time, DPH will work with school nurses and administrators on training and implementation efforts.

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