BMI screenings for preschoolers


The obesity epidemic is serious business, especially when it comes to kids. Being overweight or obese as a child puts you at risk of being overweight as an adult. And it increases your risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Experts at Mayo Clinic are working to prevent obesity in kids. While it's not happening here in the Jacksonville area yet, they've teamed up with school districts in other parts of the country to add body mass index screening to the standard screening kids go through before they start kindergarten.

A school district in Rochester, Minnesota, like many across the country, screens all 3- to 5-year-olds before they start school. They test things such as height, hearing, vision and other areas.  Four-year-old Sam Rechs is one of them.

"It's important to make sure your child is developing the way they should by so they are going to be ready for kindergarten," said James Rechs, Sam's dad.

Now they've added body mass index, or BMI, to the list.

"1 in 3 children is either overweight or obese," explained Mayo Clinic Pediatrician Esther Krych, M.D.

Krych and colleagues developed the BMI screening material. They want to identify kids whose BMI is too high and educate parents.

"Our goal is to try to stop the problem before it starts, and that's really prevention," Krych said.

If a child is found to be overweight or obese, which little Sam is not, the school offers parents information supplied by Mayo Clinic that can help. 

"Teaching parents how to keep their child active and how to make healthy choices about eating habits," said Peggy O'Toole-Martin, who does early childhood screening.

Habits that can improve the health of children not just during the school years, but for a lifetime.

Again, being overweight or obese as a child can increase the risk of obesity in adulthood. Plus it can increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease, sleep apnea and diabetes.

For more information on preschool BMI screening, you can go to www.mayoclinic.org or you can call the Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville at 904-953-2272.