The Federal Fat Police: Bill Would Require Government to Track Body Mass of American Children
Thursday, May 13, 2010
By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, in Washington, to discuss the findings of the Childhood Obesity Task Force report. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(CNSNews.com) - A bill introduced this month in Congress would put the federal and state governments in the business of tracking how fat, or skinny, American children are.
The bill would require states that receive federal dollars for health programs to track the Body Mass Index of children ages 2 through 18 annually through records collected by their health care providers. The legislation also requires the states to pass that data on to the Department of Health and Human Services for analysis.
The Healthy Choices Act--introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee--establishes and funds a wide range of programs and regulations aimed at reducing obesity rates by such means as putting nutritional labels on the front of food products, subsidizing businesses that provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and collecting BMI measurements of patients and counseling those that are overweight or obese.
Section 101 of the bill amends the Public Health Services Act by adding BMI as a measurement that health care professionals must assess annually on all patients and specifically for all children who are in federally funded health programs such as SCHIP.
The providers then report the data to the state or other entity (i.e., tribal authorities or health officials in the District of Columbia), which then will give the data collected over several years to the federal government for analysis.
BMI is calculated by taking one’s weight in pounds and height in inches, multiplying that number by one’s height in inches and then multiplying that number by 703. Any number over 24 is considered overweight, with higher numbers resulting in a diagnosis of obese (BMI = [weight / (height x height)] x 703).
To pay for implementing BMI data gathering, Sec. 102 of the bill states that the federal government will give grants to states that meet certain criteria, including having “the capacity to store basic demographic information (including date of birth, gender and geographic area of residence), height, weight, and immunization data for each resident of the state.”
The grants also will pay for personnel and equipment necessary to measure patients’ BMI.
The criterion a state must meet to get a grant includes specific conditions for children:
“As a condition of receiving a grant under this section, a state shall ensure that BMI measurements will be recorded for children ages 2 through 18 … on an annual basis by a licensed physician, nurse, nurse practitioner, or physicians assistant during an annual physical examination, wellness visit or similar visit with a physician.”
The grants also require that if a child’s BMI is greater than the 95 percentile for the child’s age and gender, the state will provide “information on how to lower BMI and information on state and local obesity prevention programs.”
When asked by CNSNews.com how the federal government can require individuals to have their BMI measured and assessed, a spokesperson for Kind said the bill doesn’t require people to go to a medical professional to have their BMI assessed, but rather is additional information that will be gathered as part of a routine medical visit.