BMI screenings offered for preschoolers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – 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.

While the Mayo Clinic says it's not happening here yet, the hospital is teaming up with school districts across the country to add body mass index screening to the standard screening for kids.

The school district in Rochester, Minn., like many across the country, screens all 3- to 5-year-olds before they start school. It tests things such as height, hearing, vision and other areas.

"It's important to make sure your child is developing the way they should be so they are going to be ready for kindergarten," said James Rechs, whose 4-year-old son Sam underwent preschool screening.

Now, school districts have added body mass index, or BMI, to the list.

"One in three children is either overweight or obese," said Dr. Esther Krych, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician.

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, 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, of Early Childhood Screening.

They're habits that can improve the health of children not just during the school years, but for a lifetime.

Being overweight can increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease, sleep apnea and diabetes.

For more information on preschool BMI screening, go to MayoClinic.org or call Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville at 904-953-2272.

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