BMI reporting has bad press. Is this justified?

BMI reporting is very common in US schools but this practice is under fire. Scientists are questioning its usefulness, and reporting errors, such as this widely publicized one (where a slim girl was classified as ‘overweight’). This leads parents and educators to increasingly question the value of BMI reports. Are they right ? Is BMI reporting really effective in increasing parental awareness, healthier behavior, physical activity and slowing down the rate of youth obesity? Is it worth the time spent to produce such reports and the stress caused to many children and parents? The most recent research suggests that the answer is NO. Here is a short summary of the latest studies : While BMI can be a good tool to identify trends on large populations, it is a quite inaccurate method to evaluate body composition in individuals(1). Therefore the risk of sending out reports that erroneously categorize BMI results is quite large. Parental awareness of their child’s weight status is not enhanced by BMI reporting (5, 6) and ‘potential for harm may outweigh possible benefits’ (6). When reports are sent home, they must offer individual advice and actionable recommendations(5), so parents know precisely what to do when their child is identified as ‘at-risk’. Generic advice such as ‘Be active for at least 60 minutes every day’ is not enough. Until effective methods of notification are identified, schools should consider directing resources to policies and programs proven to improve student health(6), and be very cautious about what BMI reports are telling parents. Why does current BMI reporting has bad press ? Here is the quick answer: it’s inaccurate, too...