School-Based BMI Screening Programs

by Diane Lofshult on May 01, 2007

We all know that childhood obesity is at an all-time high in many developed nations. Health experts say that the earlier a child is identified as having a weight problem, the earlier interventions can begin to stave off the development of obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

A public school in the East Penn School District in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, recently initiated a BMI screening program for students in kindergarten through grade 12. The program was developed and implemented by the public school district’s nursing staff (with significant administrative support), using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC guidelines help identify children who are underweight, within established norms, at risk of becoming overweight or already overweight, based on their age and gender.

Parents of the participating students were notified by mail of the results of their kids’ BMI screening. District-wide, the number of underweight and overweight kids has decreased since screening began 5 years ago. Since its inception, the program has been instrumental in keeping the number of overweight children in the district below the national average among the students.

According to the researchers who profiled this screening program in Nutrition Today (2006; 41 [6], 274–79), “What began as a growth screening program resulted in comprehensive changes to improve nutrition and physical activity for students.”

We think the school district deserves an “A” for effort in making fitness happen for the students in its care.

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About the Author

Diane Lofshult

Diane Lofshult IDEA Author/Presenter

Diane Lofshult is an award-winning freelance author who specializes in nutrition and weight management topics. She is the founder of In Other Words, an editorial consulting firm based in Solana Beach, California. Reach her at