Some Pennsylvania Parents May Be Surprised by Child’s Body Fat Screening Results

Many Pennsylvania parents are learning that their children are overweight now that the state requires body mass index (BMI) screenings for all children in grades K-12.

When schools give parents the inside scoop on their child’s body fat, the Pennsylvania Medical Society has some online help to steer kids back on the track to good health.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports that as many as one child out of every five is overweight. This could leave about 20 percent of our parent population wondering what to do next.

“We’re seeing a higher rate of childhood obesity because harried parents often turn to fast food or high-carbohydrate snacks,” says Christopher F. Hannum, MD, a member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and an obesity specialist from Chester, PA. “Children aren’t as active today because they spend a lot of time on computers and watching television. They’re eating too many calories and not burning them off.”

He adds, “Children may not think about the health risks, but they’re very aware of the social bias against overweight people. This added stress may lead to unhealthy eating and poor exercise habits.”

The Pennsylvania Medical Society believes that parents, doctors, and schools need to work together to keep our kids healthy and happy. So, the Society is offering a variety of helpful resources.

“Doctors should help parents interpret BMI results because each child has personal issues that can make a difference,” explains Dr. Hannum. “For example, student athletes may have low body fat, but a high BMI, because of muscle mass. BMI is not the sole indicator of good health. We also need to look at regular physical exams, vital signs, family history, and other factors.”

The US Surgeon General says overweight kids have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults. Without good weight management, these children risk coronary disease, diabetes, joint pain, and other health problems as they mature.

The good news is that families can work together with their doctors on weight management programs. Since children learn by example, parents can take this opportunity to prepare nutritious meals and improve their own health as well. The Pennsylvania Medical Society cautions that parents should talk with their family doctor before making any radical diet changes.

Dr. Hannum notes that diet and weight change for parents and children can happen gradually. “Many small choices over time can add up to big results. By drinking one fewer sodas each day, you can cut weight gain by 10 to 15 pounds a year. Kids also need lots of physical activity and should exercise at least one hour a day through play or organized sports.”