I am sharing with you a letter I emailed to the principal, superintendent and program creator of the school health report cards, which includes BMI. Recently in the news, the school has follow-up with many success stories of this school’s initiative. While the BMI reporting erkes me greatly due to its poor measurement what erks me even more is that the school are becoming interim health centre rather than a place of education. Subsequently, a recent Canadian-based study showed that some healthy-eating/healthy lifestyle initiatives may be triggering unhealthy/extreme food restrictions. While Elicia Baxter, a grade-10 student interviewed for the story, may have improved some health indicators, I worry about the other students who have stayed silent.
with worry, @julie_rochefort
January 10th, 2012
Dear Mr. Waycott
I am writing you today to express concerns regarding the use of medireports cards at St.Stephen’s High School. I am a Registered Dietitian who specializes in body image in London, Ontario. I have cc’ed Mr. Don Walker, the program creator along with the superintendent of your school district.
Moreover, I have provided a list of academic literature at the end of this
email which supports and underlies my concerns.
According to St Stephen’s mission statement, the school aims to “to nurture
students individual strengths and provide a positive learning environment
that offers the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes
necessary to become happy, responsible and productive citizens”. Subjecting
students to graded evaluations of their body is likely to pose severe
negative consequences rather than create a positive learning environment and
While I believe that the report card project is well-intended as both
educators and healthcare professionals care about the heath and well being
of students; robust research has demonstrated that weight-centered
interventions- that is, programs that use weight as an indicator of health,
can lead to severe negative consequences such as:
1. body dissatisfactions
2. disordered eating
3. weight cycling
4. reduced self-esteem,
5. eating and weight stigmatization and discrimination
While the public is well aware of the obesity statistics, I have listed
below research findings which offer an additional layer of concerns
regarding the severity of weight preoccupation within the adolescent
* Those who are teased about their weight report more suicidal
thoughts than peers who are not teased.
* 37% girls in grade nine and 40% in grade ten perceived themselves
as too fat. Even among students of normal-weight (based on BMI), 19%
believed that they were too fat, and 12% of students reported attempting to
* 63% of overweight adolescent girls and 34% of overweight
adolescent boys participated in unhealthy and extreme weight-loss behaviours
o Using laxatives
o Taking diet pills
o Skipping meals
* Obese youth are liked less, chosen less as friends, and rejected
more often by peers than “average weight” youth. Some overweight youth
attribute this rejection to their weight, and believe weight loss would
increase their friends.
Programs that focus on weight have yet to show long-term success3-6.
Addressing overweight and obesity is about promoting physical activity and
healthy eating as well as their underlying socio-cultural and environmental
determinants. Grading student’s weight has been shown to perpetuate weight
bias and discrimination among students which contradicts the schools
anti-harassments policy that “everybody should enjoy our school equally, and
feel safe, secure and accepted…”
A recent report written by the Chief Public Health Officer states that schools are an important component in addressing bullying. Consequently, implementing a program that measures and grades students weights risks to further amplify and justify weight-based bullying within the school environment thereby creating an environment that supports
inequality, potential harm [i.e. bullying] and peer/teacher rejection.
The grade report project at St.Stephen’s school has many potential negative
consequences, therefore, alternative efforts to promote health at St.
Stephen’s should be considered and the study be discontinued.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
Julie E. Rochefort, MHSc, RD