Childhood obesity

Massachusetts Sends Parents ‘Hey, Your Kids Are Fat’ Letters

“Hey parents. Quick reminder: Your kids are fat.” That’s basically the gist of letters sent to Massachusetts families by the Department of Public Health, and boy are they causing an uproar.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has upset countless parents and children by requiring schools to calculate the body mass index (BMI) of students and to send a letter home if that number is too high, reports MSN.

Parents cite “the government interference in parenting and invasion of privacy” as their primary complaint, while some kids are feeling bullied by the state over these “fat letters,” as they have been nicknamed.

“Honestly, I laughed,” noted Selectman Tracy Watson of her son Cameron’s “fat letter.” She was mostly surprised to receive a letter telling her that her son was “obese” because Cameron plays sports and participates in martial arts, reports the North Andover Patch.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health hasn’t responded to the controversy surrounding their “fat letters,” but a statement on their website reads:

“Overweight and obesity have become a serious health problem in Massachusetts. Almost one-third of school-aged children are either overweight or obese. Overweight and obese children are at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Helping children maintain a healthy weight can prevent potential health problems and serious diseases.”

State representative Jim Lyons has filed legislation along with a petition to stop the “fat letters” from being sent out.

“It goes to a larger problem, the Department of Public Health is losing sight of what its focus is and expanding too many areas,” Lyons said. “I don’t think it [a child’s BMI] is something that parents need to be told through a school department.”

BMI has been criticized before as an incomplete measurement for obesity, since the measurement merely uses height and weight to determine body mass. BMI does not distinguish between fat, bones, and muscle, and therefore isn’t seen as a true measure of body fat percentage.

What do you think of the “fat letters?” Should the Massachusetts Department of Public Health be allowed to collect and distribute such data, or is it an intrusion of personal privacy and rights?