Forgive me for once again pointing out the blazingly obvious, but recent studies have not been able to find any actual benefits from sending “fat letters” home from school. What is a “fat letter” you ask? Many schools are now doing BMI testing on the entire student body. When a student’s BMI is considered to be too high (using some relatively arbitrary measure) a letter is sent home from school to the student’s parent that goes something like this:
Your kid is fat. WE obviously don’t trust you to know your own kid is fat, because if you knew, you’d obviously have fixed it by now. We also believe that you don’t know how to keep your kid healthy (because FAT) so here’s some arbitrary weight loss advice that hasn’t been shown to work long-term on anybody, but we’re sending it anyways (because FAT). And obviously we know that you need help because your kid must be eating a whole cake and 4 liters of sugary soda every day and must need your assistance to run the remote as they watch TV because that is HOW kids get fat.
Also, clearly you aren’t showing the appropriate level of panic about this situation (because OMG Deathfat!) so here are some alarmist health statistics and nonsensical vague future health threats that indicate your kid won’t live as long as you (even though the statistics don’t bear this out because even though we’re in education EEK! MATH!). We don’t plan on doing anything to protect your kid from stigma because clearly if you were doing your job right there would be no stigma to protect against (and we don’t like the way your kid looks because OMG jiggly FAT!)
Signed Your Kid’s School
Wait, what? You mean parents don’t love these letters? You mean despite the fact there is nothing in medical science that indicates that there is a formula for long term weight loss, these kids don’t magically slim down like gazelles and become the most popular kids in the class after their parents receive the letter? Really?
Nope. In THIS very recent study and this earlier study, no link was found between sending home fat letters and BMI, weight, health behaviors or health outcomes. This doesn’t meant that the letters have no effect (for example we don’t know if it has an effect on self esteem or the price of broccoli in Boise.) It simply means that after all the hoopla and distractions from study and public money spent, there is no discernable benefit.
Let me say this again. State money is being spent on an educational program with no definable benefit. Which begs the question, do fat people cost our country money or does the knee jerk requirement to “do something about the fatties” whether it does any good or not cost our country money. Are we paying a premium to create a state-sanctioned forum for people to yell at parents of fat kids because we don’t like the way they look? (We could create a thread on Reddit.com for a whole lot less money. Look how much money I saved us!)
And let’s be clear. This is not just a few dollars at a few schools. According to the New York Times, nine states require that “fat letters” be sent home to parents. And today, 25 states weigh public school students to monitor population data on obesity rates.
Yet the results section of Gee’s study states:
BMI screening and parental notification during late adolescence, given prior screening and notification in early adolescence, was not significantly related to BMI-for-age z-scores, the probability of being in a lower weight classification or exercise and dietary intake behaviors.
So what “grade” do you give this exercise? After careful consideration, I’d have to give this project an “F”.
Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want me to come speak at your school? Check out my info here!