by Karla Lester, MD
Teach a Kid to Fish is in strong opposition to LB 29 which is intended to change provisions relating to school health inspections.
Six per cent of U.S. children are severely obese, which is defined as a BMI 20% higher than the cutoff for obesity (95th BMI percentile). One-third of Nebraska children are overweight or obese and over 40% of low-income and/or minority children are disproportionately affected by obesity and comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver disease, not to mention the psychosocial effects of childhood obesity. Any movement toward reducing objective data, such as LB 29 proposes, will decrease opportunities to address the childhood obesity epidemic on a community level.
Teach a Kid to Fish is a nonprofit with a mission to prevent and reduce childhood obesity by empowering Lincoln children and families to eat healthy and be active. Our vision is creating community solutions for children’s health. Teach a Kid to Fish works in four focus areas including: early childhood, healthcare, schools and youth, and community. As a pediatrician, founder, and Executive Medical Director of Teach a Kid to Fish, I know that any movement to remove school health screenings is a move in the wrong direction.
I served for five years on the school health screening rules and regulations update committee and specifically as the head of the BMI and Blood Pressure subcommittee. The school health screening rules and regulations update was an involved expert five year process with multiple stakeholders from across the state including healthcare providers, educators, parents, school nurses, and representatives from the department of education. The rules and regulations had not been updated since 1919. It is the role of schools to prevent obesity through physical education, health education, physical activity, family consumer science classes, and school nutrition programs. An important component of school health screenings for over 100 years is obtaining height and weight.
Based on focus group data and surveys of parents, physicians and school nurses obtained through an American Academy of Pediatrics CATCH (Community Approach to Child Health) Planning Grant, parents stated that they are taking their children for well child checks during school aged years at kindergarten and seventh grade only. Over 60% of parents approved of school nurses sending home BMI reports from the school as long as all parents received the reports and there was information regarding community programs. Physicians support the school health screening mandates of height, weight and BMI because most children, especially those most vulnerable are not seeing their primary care physicians on an annual basis.
The rules and regulations outline the competencies, methodologies, and equipment needed to screen height, weight, BMI, hearing, dental and vision in Nebraska students. Governor Heineman signed the rules and regulations into law. Instead of removing objective data, we are all stakeholders who should be moving toward a higher level of advocacy to create community solutions for children’s health! Contact your Senator and let them know you are an advocate for children’s health and oppose LB 29.