New Childhood Obesity Reporting Requirement Launches
To help guide childhood obesity prevention efforts in New York State, beginning this month selected public schools will begin reporting aggregate body mass index (BMI) data to the New York State Health Department.
Legislation passed by the State Legislature in 2007 requires public schools outside of New York City to collect and report a summary of students' weight status beginning this month. To protect student privacy, no personal identifying information will be reported.
"Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in New York," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "The students' weight data collected and reported with the assistance of school health professionals will help the state, counties, communities, and school districts better assess what actions are needed to address this threat to our children's health."
Daines noted that obesity is associated with increased prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in children, a form of diabetes previously seen only in adults. In adults, obesity contributes to many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, and some types of cancer. Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity continue to be the leading causes of obesity.
For many years the State Health Department has collected data on infectious diseases to guide the state's communicable disease prevention efforts. "By collecting vital weight status information, we can begin to treat obesity like other public health threats and better target our prevention efforts," said Commissioner Daines.
The law requires BMI and weight status categories (based on BMI-for-age percentiles) to be included on each student's Health Certificate at school entry (pre-kindergarten or kindergarten) and in grades 2, 4, 7 and 10. While all students in the specified grades are required to have BMI and weight status information reported to their school, parents may request to have their child's weight status information excluded from the summary submitted by schools to the State Health Department.
A 2004 survey of oral health, physical activity and nutrition among New York third-graders revealed that 21 percent of these children were obese. Research shows that the risk for future health problems can be greatly reduced by promoting healthy eating and increasing physical activity beginning in preschool-aged children.
To help prepare for implementation this school year, the BMI reporting requirement was pilot tested during the 2007-2008 school year with voluntary participation by 97 schools from 34 school districts and 24 counties. The pilot program helped create the statewide reporting system, with schools submitting aggregate data electronically via the department's Health Provider Network, a secure software system already used by schools to report aggregate immunization data.
Each year 50 percent of schools will be required to report student weight status information to generate representative estimates of childhood obesity rates for each county and for the state as a whole, exclusive of New York City. Schools required to participate this school year must report the information by January 29, 2009.