Disturbing to read this morning that the Toronto District School Board is allowing BMI testing in schools.  The study being conducted by Toronto’s Public Health Authority, plans to test 12,000 students between Grades 7-12.  While Toronto has refrained from sending “fat letters” home to parents as they do in the US, the impact of this study will fall squarely on the young people who participate.  While the researches state that participation is voluntary and BMIs will not be shared unless requested by the student, I cannot imagine very many teenagers opting out in this social situation.  On the contrary, I image students, particularly girls, comparing numbers and plotting ways to lose weight.  Having been fed a steady diet of pressure to be thin, they may already be dieting before the study reaches schools.  Surely this type of social experiment can only fuel the body image fire, never mind teasing and bullying. 

Interestingly, the study is in response to the Healthy Kids Panel report, which does not recommend using BMI measurements to screen for overweight and obese children at risk of developing long term health conditions.  One must ask, why are we collecting this information?  Why are we collecting it in schools rather than at the Family Physician’s office?  Why are we using the BMI knowing that this is a flawed measurement that tells us extremely little about health?  Is this type of statistical information worth the risk it poses to the self-esteem and mental health of our children?  I think our children should expect adults to make better decisions than this.