Here we go again. Despite all the rhetoric about Michelle Obama finding brilliant new solutions for obesity, most anti-obesity initiatives these days are just rehashes of old ideas. Now at the dawn of a new decade, five state legislators have proposed fighting obesity by means of (wait for it…) school-mandated BMI measurements!
Lawmakers in Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, and New York have introduced legislation that would require schools to report students’ Body Mass Index measurements to the state government. There are some important differences among the bills. Indiana's measure prevents the information from being recorded on a report card or other document that others can see. But New York’s bill would require schools to send the information to parents along with “general advice about what actions, if necessary, should be taken.” Naturally, the New York legislation was introduced by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, one of the Empire State's most dependable food lunatics.
Using BMI measurements for anything is a fatheaded idea that needs to be scrapped. Judging from their BMIs, former President George W. Bush, actor Taylor Lautner, and basketball player LeBron James are all considered overweight. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former boxer Mickey Rourke, and quarterback Donovan McNabb are all deemed obese. Why? BMI measurements don’t take muscle mass into account, leading to perfectly fit people being told to watch their weight. No wonder Dr. David Cundiff (writing in the International Journal of Obesity) recommends “abandoning the use of the BMI as a surrogate for physical inactivity and poor diet.”
That’s a great idea. Great Britain, which began sending out BMI report cards in 2005, wound up sending the parents of trim children warnings that they were fat. Arkansas tried out this idea in 2003, triggering outrage among parents, 13 percent of whom reported that their children had been teased, thanks to the program. Felix Ortiz take note: Parents in Manhattan are generally less polite than those in Arkansas. (Trust us on this one, we deal with MeMe Roth regularly.)
We’ve long been skeptical of BMI’s efficacy on an individual basis. Years later, state governments are still pushing these flawed measurements on schoolchildren. The predictable results will include humiliated children, livid parents, and new notches on the Nanny Culture’s collective belt.