Geisinger study aims to improve childhood obesity

DANVILLE – Knowledge is power with it comes to taking care of our children, especially when it comes to parents taking care of their overweight kids. Some Geisinger researchers have found when a parent knows their child’s BMI, they are more likely to address the issue. Researchers analyzed nearly 1,500 parental surveys from 31 PA elementary schools for the study.


Dr. Lisa Bailey-Davis says it takes more than just knowing your child’s BMI measure to change their health, “What we haven’t found across many cities is that parents will take action on just having body mass index or BMI alone. In fact, it’s going to take a little more of an understanding of the health risks associated with an elevated BMI and also a better understanding of what behaviors it could change to help reduce risk.”


Compared to simply sending home a BMI report card, schools that included education materials containing prevention or reducing overweight and obesity information were found to be more effective. However, Dr. Bailey-Davis says every child’s case is going to be different, “What can happens is if children have high muscle mass like many athletes do, they’ll end up having a high BMI for age percentile or even a BMI in adulthood. That can upset a lot of parents being that their child is put into a category of being overweight or obese when they’re an elite athlete. It’s only intended to be a screening tool.”


Dr. Bailey-Davis explains what parents can do after being provided with the proper information, “They were able to screen for behaviors at home, take actions that seemed appropriate with the intent of the policy in the first place. They’re raising awareness about what BMI is, what are some things you can do to address concerns about an elevated BMI for age percentile. When you do have a concern you can follow up with your child health-care provider.”


Over 17 percent of American youth are obese, but very few parents identify their own children as having an elevated weight status. All public schools in Pennsylvania implement BMI screenings and provide materials to better help parents.

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