Posted in: Health

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

Childhood obesity

“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?

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Comments

23 Responses to “Massachusetts Sends Parents ‘Hey, Your Kids Are Fat’ Letters”

  1. Joel McLead

    Regardless of how you feel about the letters, BMI is one of the worst baselines ever. For example Olympic athletes come up as obese. It also doesn't work for short people, i.e. I'm only 5' 2" 160lbs and in pretty good shape. But I'm obese according to my BMI. :/

  2. Shanna Lea

    It used to be rare to have obese kids in school. Now it's more the majority. It's hard to change when the parents are the same way. Most of the letters will fall on deaf ears.

  3. Sarah Natal

    I think every school in the country should send out these letters. Obesity has become a major problem, especially in the states. And quite honestly you don't need some sort of test to tell that a child is overweight. It's in large part the parents fault, however at the same time I think schools could be giving children healthier choices. No more pizzas, chips, and candy. I believe if you truly love your child you will want them to live a long healthy life, and that starts with eating right.

  4. Tereesa Iamonamission Davenport

    There are better ways and BMI is so full of it.

  5. Tereesa Iamonamission Davenport

    There are better ways and BMI is so full of it.

  6. Amy Franch

    BMI is a poor way to measure for obesity, however they could do skinfold tests because, as a healthcare professional and a parent…the truth hurts….America has an ovbesity problem that starts early on….if kids were more active and ate less junk which is as addicting to the brain as illegal drugs, proven in many studies by brain scans, then we would be healthier as an nation in regards to Diabetes, heart disease, infertility and numerous other health disparities.

  7. Amy Franch

    BMI is a poor way to measure for obesity, however they could do skinfold tests because, as a healthcare professional and a parent…the truth hurts….America has an ovbesity problem that starts early on….if kids were more active and ate less junk which is as addicting to the brain as illegal drugs, proven in many studies by brain scans, then we would be healthier as an nation in regards to Diabetes, heart disease, infertility and numerous other health disparities.

  8. Diane Schubach

    What else does Massachusetts have? Oh, yes, socialized medicine. Look out for more interference in our lives as Obamacare takes hold.

  9. Pat Bassler

    I would love to see pictures of the people deciding who should receive these letters. Most administrators of ANYTHING are far too fat themselves. It's bad enough kids get bullied by other kids, now they're being bullied by the adults who should be protecting them from bullying.

  10. Pat Bassler

    It sure didn't take long for an asshole to blame Obama. What an ignorant bitch you are. Most of them got fat during the Bush administration. It's this administration that is encouraging healthy eating habits and exercise.

  11. Bethany Brandt

    Actually, Mitt Romney is responsible for "socialized medicine" in Massachusetts, not Barack Obama. Let me guess who you voted for, since you obviously don't do your research before you make sweeping accusations. Just do a quick Google search and you will be amazed at the wealth of information available to you outside of Fox news.

  12. Sarah Natal

    I don't believe they are trying to bully the children. I think it is simply concern for the welfare of the child. I'm also a firm believer that its not the childs fault, its the parents.

  13. Miz Wünderland

    Hilarious! Someone had to say it! However, a better calculation system would be harder to argue with. Good try, mass, good try.

  14. Paula Qualls Gurley

    It is the schools job to teach children, not to tell their parents whether or not they need to lose weight.

  15. Pat Bassler

    I'm also a believer in the fact that MOST of it is caused by the GROWTH hormones being pumped into everything we eat. If it makes the food fatter and larger what do you suppose it's doing to us??? Parents CANNOT control everything their kids eat unless they put them under lock and key and feed them through an opening in the door. Yes, they ARE bullying them and giving other kids the reason to bully. Why is Obama being blamed? It's THIS administration that is encouraging healthy eating habits and exercise and now getting bashed because the haters don't want to credit them with anything!

  16. Pauline Wagner Tavares

    and they should close the letter with, "And by the way tomorrows lunch menu is pizza, corn, French fries, chocolate milk, and a popsicle."

  17. Diane Schubach

    Yes, of course I know Mitt Romney is responsible for socialized medicine in MA. I don't like socialized medicine no matter who is responsible. I'm right about interference in our lives once the taxpayers are responsible for health care. Take a look at what is happening in the UK. They are talking now about "putting down" children with severe handicaps because it is too expensive to keep them alive. Old people are virtually ignored in hospitals and left without food and water and are not cleaned up for days. Let's have a conversation without insults. Is that possible?

  18. Karl Kelson

    As a health care provider, I can't say that I disagree with the letters being sent. I do however think that there should be wording that gently reminds parents that BMI is not an indicator of fat % and that it is only based on hight and weight alone. It does not sound as if the letters came out and called the kids "fat," nor were the letters addressed directly to the kids. The letters simply provided information and left it in the hands of the parents to do what they would with it. I think that parents should focus on the intent of the letter. Childhood obesity has increased so much over the past 20-30 years and it is a major concern. It will be a large factor in increasing health care costs. I think we have developed a strange sense of entitlement that makes us believe that it is rude for anyone to remind us that we have anything to work on. I do understand the balance of physical health and mental health (feeling good about yourself is important) but I don't think that reminding people of potential problems is mentally damaging. Perhaps we just need to change our points of view to look at this as a case of an organization showing concern for our children, rather than a case of them calling our children fat.

  19. Rachel Ann Hanson

    I've been thinking about this over the last several days, largely due in part to the fact that I work in a middle school cafeteria. The only think that's come out of my thoughts is the idea that actions speak louder than words. If the schools are concerned about the health of their students I believe they would work to make changes in the classroom to facilitate more active learning (active in this sense meaning physically active.)

    While information never goes amiss I believe this letter being sent home needs to be one of only several steps taken to promote a more healthy lifestyle.

  20. Ann Kelson

    I've liked your comments, Karl and Rachel Ann Hanson . Most people who are fat know that they are fat! I feel that lack of exercise is a big problem. Video games and TV shows with a big bad of potato chips and a 2-liter bottle of coke and it shouldn't take a genius to figure that out. It's a habit that I'm sure is hard to break. But I encourage young people to think about it and try to do something to help your weight. It is when you become an adult that the knees and back and hips start to hurt and then all you can do is sit and watch TV because your body. Maybe schools could have programs like "biggest loser". Challenges are usually a good incentive for kids. In fairness, I must say that some overweight problems are genetic, so kindness is in store and NOT bullying.