By CAROL MOTSINGER
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland students may have new tests to worry about.
But they won't exactly be able to study for them.
A bill in the General Assembly would require that schools perform Body
Mass Index readings and diabetes screenings for all students. If the
tests indicate a student is unhealthy, parents would be sent a copy of
If parents object to the tests, the student would be exempt from the
The bill is part of a growing effort to help combat what has been deemed
an obesity epidemic, particularly among youngsters.
Nationally, the percentage of overweight children has almost tripled in
the past 20 years. In recent years, states across the country have
enacted many laws attempting to curb the number of childhood obesity
Vending machines have been tossed out of schools; French fries scratched
from cafeteria menus. School physical education and nutrition programs
have been emphasized and expanded.
Last year Maryland legislators passed the Student Health Promotion Act
requiring local schools boards to lock vending machines in schools
during certain hours. Each jurisdiction determines the time the machines
If passed, the latest bill would make Maryland the latest state to
require Body Mass Index testing in schools. Pennsylvania, Arkansas,
Florida and California already have similar laws.
"(Students) aren't good learners if they're not healthy kids," said one
of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D - Prince George's, during
a hearing last week before the Senate Education, Health and
Environmental Affairs Committee.
"And all these other education bills that we have talked about are going
to be meaningless if we let kids be sick."
Pinsky added the screening results would be a good way to collect data
on student obesity.
But school officials testified that the health report cards are not the
right solution to the problem. The Maryland State Board of Education
warned the bill doesn't go far enough because it does not call for any
treatment once problems have been identified.
Vicki Taliaferro, a specialist for School Health Services at the
Maryland State Department of Education, added that when other states
started requiring Body Mass Index testing in schools "part of the public
opposition was perceived interference with the parent's right to deal
with their child's weight."
According to verbal and written testimony, health organizations are
split over the bill.
Steve Wise, a lobbyist for the Maryland chapter of the American Academy
of Pediatrics, commended the bill's intention but said "schools are not
the best setting to conduct the screenings." Wise said schools should
not conduct these tests because health information should remain
Pinsky noted "there is no guarantee that a child will get treatment"
because not all students have access to health care.
The American Cancer Society submitted written testimony supporting the
bill because the testing would align with the group's efforts to promote
a lifestyle that decreases the risk of cancer.
The bill says schools would calculate Body Mass Index and screen for
diabetes when scoliosis tests are conducted. State law requires
scoliosis screenings at least once for each student between the sixth
and eighth grades.
The Body Mass Index looks at height and weight to gauge levels of body
fat. But school officials and health administrators questioned the
test's integrity. Taliaferro noted athletes who are very healthy can
score high numbers because they have high muscle mass.
There were questions of how the diabetes screening would work. Pinsky
said the diabetes screening would be noninvasive. The school health
officials would just look for physical signs of diabetes and document
family history and ethnicity, he said. Family history and ethnicity can
be indicators of disease risk, he noted.
The bill also calls for restriction on foods with high calorie, fat and
sodium content and has been introduced in the House of Delegates.
Reminds me of Japan schools. and the ...yearly? checkups they have in schools. At least in various anime series anyhow... always have girls panicking over having gained weight then. :: random::
..back to studying~