The Fat Letters
A few years ago, a school district in my neck of the woods, suburban Philadelphia, sent, as they came to be known, "the fat letters."
The confidential letters from the East Penn School District notified parents of their child's body mass index (BMI), explaining that BMI was a screening tool and encouraging parents to share the results with their child's pediatrician.
"Studies have shown that BMI in children and adolescents compares well to laboratory measurements of body fat," the letter stated, "and also correlates with known health risks associated with being overweight. These risk factors include abnormal lipid levels, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes."
George Ziolkowski, PhD, the director of pupil personnel service with the East Penn district, said that it took the school's nurses a year "to convince me that we really had to start doing something about this."
The school's intentions were good. The numbers of heavy kids, as we all know, are on the rise. Today's overweight children may be tomorrow's diabetics and heart disease patients, adding more to the rolls of an already-strained healthcare system.
But as a parent, how would you feel if you received one of these letters (parents of children whose BMI fell under the 5th percentile for age and gender also were notified)? Would you view it as a helpful tool, or an invasion of privacy or even an insult?
To view the East Penn letter, which now allows parents to opt out of receiving information on their child's weight, click here.
--Adrianne O'Brien, editor, ADVANCE for Nurses