Student Obesity Screenings Create Controversy

October 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Child Development

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Overweight is defined as having a body-mass index higher than 95 percent of children the same age. At-risk is defined as having a body-mass index higher than 85%. Brevard’s Health Department has decided to begin screening students, to identify at-risk children.

While some schools send the (screening results) letters home with report cards or sealed in envelopes, others simply hand the students stapled notices to deliver to their parents.

“The information needs to be conveyed to the parents, but not via the children,” said Dr. Vicki Panaccione, a licensed child psychologist. “It can impact their self-esteem.”

Experts say long-time practices like assessing body-fat ratios in physical education classes also can diminish a child’s self-esteem.

“It needs to be done in privacy, not in a classroom in front of others because it is private,” Panaccione said. It’s about their body and can cause a lot of embarrassment. If the child is impressionable enough, it can lead to eating disorders.

“Putting an overemphasis on a child’s weight while they are developing can create problems with self-esteem,” she said. “The focus shouldn’t be on what the body looks like, but that they are getting activity and are eating and sleeping well.”

Obesity (can be) a direct result of lifestyle choices: Children are spending more time watching television, using computers and playing video games, and busy parents often rely on ‘fast food’ to feed their families. “Societal dangers also have caused parents to become more restrictive and less inclined to allow their children to run around the neighborhood,” Panaccione said.

As published in Florida Today.
Florida Today

© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.

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