Measure what you treasure; Are schools going too far in measuring student BMI?

Measure what you treasure; Are schools going too far in measuring student BMI?

When I am not working at Active for Life, I am an “human and organizational performance consultant.” It’s a long title. What it means is that people and organizations hire me to help them succeed.

For 25 years, I’ve worked with a varied clientele ranging from athletes (professionals and Olympic and world champions) to corporations (of all sizes and including many driven individuals). In that time, I’ve learned plenty about the quest for success. From experience, I’ve identified some universal principles that apply if you want to succeed.

One of them is “measure what you treasure.” To be successful, you must keep track of certain elements. Cyclists measure their mileage and speed. Corporations score their expenditures, revenues and profits.

There’s a fine balance of self-awareness and external judgment that goes along with being measured. Because people act differently when they know something is being scored. They come to treasure what they are measuring

The journalists don’t use my catchy phrase, but a recent article in the Globe and Mail about childhood obesity provides a great example.

The third and final article in the Globe’s “Fit to Learn” series on children’s fitness and education is about measurement and keeping score.

The story starts by talking about schools around the world that include Body Mass Index (BMI) scores in the report cards of students. In Arkansas, doing so is a state law.

As a measure of body fat, the BMI identifies students who may be overweight or obese and who may be at risk of health issues like type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Legislating this simple measure onto a student’s scorecard has contributed to reversing a negative trend.

The authors of the Globe story write:

One of the biggest benefits reaped by Arkansas’s BMI policy was that it dramatically raised parents’ awareness about their children’s health. Early reports indicated many parents were unable to identify healthy weights or were not concerned about obesity, but the latest report from 2009 show 90 per cent believe obesity is a serious problem. And while the national obesity rate has been rising in the U.S., in Arkansas the percentage of Grade 8 and 10 children who are obese has dropped incrementally, from 22.6 per cent in 2004 to 21.6 per cent in 2010.

In light of this, should we begin doing the same in Canada? Should schools measure and include students’ BMI on their report card?

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