Body Mass Index (BMI) Measurement in Schools – Safeguard 1

Safeguard 1. Introduce the program to parents, guardians, students, and school staff; ensure that there is an appropriate process in place for obtaining parental consent for measuring students’ height and weight.

To help minimize negative response from the public, programs need to involve parents or guardians early in the planning stages.1,2 Before the program begins:

  • All parents can receive a clear description of the program to minimize confusion and anxiety.
  • Communications with parents can focus on the health implications of obesity, overweight, and underweight, and make it clear that the school will be measuring weight out of concern for a student’s health, not their appearance or a desire to criticize parenting practices.3,4
  • Schools can assure parents and students that the screening results will remain confidential.
  • In addition, students and school staff can be informed of the purposes and logistics of height and weight measurement, as well as the school’s policy on sharing results.

Parents must be given the option of declining permission to measure their child’s BMI.1,2 Some programs use passive parental consent; that is, all students have their BMI measured unless parents send a written refusal. For example, at the beginning of each school year, school districts can inform parents about the school health program and the screenings that are conducted in each grade. Parents can choose not to have their child screened; otherwise all students are measured. Alternatively a school district can require active consent from both parents and students; only students who signed the consent form and whose parents have submitted a signed consent form would be screened.

Source: Nihiser AJ, Lee SM, Wechsler H, McKenna M, Odom E, Reinold C, Thompson D, Grummer-Strawn L. Body Mass Index Measurement in Schools. Journal of School Health. 2007; 77:651-671.

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  1. Byrd S. Dealing with controversy: the lessons of implementing BMI screenings. NASN Newsletter. 2003;18(1):18–19.
  2. Johnson A, Ziolkowski GA. School-based body mass index screening program. Nutr Today. 2006;41(6):274–279.
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement: prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity. Pediatrics. 2003;112(2):424–430.
  4. Society for Nutrition Education. Guidelines for childhood obesity prevention programs: promoting healthy weight in children. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2003;35(1):1–4.