Weighing In On Body Mass Index Tests

January 25, 2007 - Posted at 9:30 p.m. CST

JONESBORO-Body Mass Index tests could be coming to an end for Arkansas' school children.

The state's House Education Committee has advanced a bill that would remove the mandatory tracking of student's body mass indices.

But for those working to keep kids healthy, this could reverse their hard work.

"Obesity in children now days is out of control," said Laura Taylor, Manager of the NEA Center for Healthy Children.   "I think it should be left alone. I think we are making great strides and progress in turning childhood obesity around in Arkansas."

But the grim truth that obesity is a problem in our youth is something parents are beginning to face.

"It's very important for the parents to understand what the BMI results mean. For kids with a BMI over 25 their chances of developing obesity related illnesses increase," said exercise coordinator Meg Williamson.

That's why exercise and a good diet is the key now, and not later.

"Making those lifestyle changes now and making those changes to decrease the risk factors is very important to these kids and their future," said Williamson.

And for kids like 11-year-old Austin Lynn, who loves playing Dance, Dance, Revolution (D-D-R), changing his habits, changed his life.

"I would spend my entire day on the computers, video games, and all electronics. I would eat fried food all the time," said Lynn.

But he said with a new year's resolution, that all changed.

"I haven't missed a day yet."

And his determination is making an impact.

"It's more entertaining without the computer. I have a lot more fun. I feel better. I have more strength," said Lynn.

And it's stories like Austin's that keep children's health advocates crossing their fingers, that body mass index tests stay within Arkansas schools.

"If BMI was taken out of the schools, a lot of these kids would be increasing their risk factors for these diseases and would not know about it," said Williamson.

Because the BMI tests do not differentiate between muscle mass and fat mass, exercise coordinators told me they feel parents are simply confused by the results, and they suggest the real answer would be more education on what those results actually mean.

Story Ideas or Comments?  Email Will at wcarter@kait8.com