Weighing in on childhood obesity in Montgomery County, Maryland


The United States has the recent distinction of having the highest obesity rate in the developed world.

According to the 2007 Maryland BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System), about 17% of adults in Montgomery County, Maryland were obese.   However, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the childhood obesity rate in Montgomery County, since there is no systematic collection of BMI data in the school system.    How can you measure success in reducing childhood obesity without a  baseline or a way to measure progress?  How can you decide whether certain areas or school clusters need more allocation of resources?

The Montgomery County Commission on Health, an advisory body to the Montgomery County Council, has advocated for BMI collection in Montgomery County public schools (MCPS), with privacy protections, in order to analyze aggregated data by cluster and develop targeted strategies for obesity reduction and prevention.    MCPS does not formally collect BMI results.  I have–informally–heard two reasons: 1. privacy protection; and 2. lack of  resources.

Other Maryland counties, such as Harford county, where the public schools have been collecting BMI data since 2010, do not seem to have these issues.   Montgomery County parents can be a vocal and political powerhouse when it comes to funding and AP programs; but the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, while promoting nutritional school lunches, has been silent regarding BMI collection in the schools.


5 Responses to “Weighing in on childhood obesity in Montgomery County, Maryland”

  1. shari01 Says:

    I would like to add that parents need to be more vocal about reducing childhood obesity. The parent organizations should call for BMI collection, because if the parents want it, BMI collection could be implemented.

  2. tzakrison Says:

    Thank you for raising this important issue. Hopefully soon governments, parents and society at large will understand the ill health effects that ensure with the over-consumptive nature of our society. Fast food soon will hopefully be considered as dangerous a product as tobacco.

  3. alydpt05 Says:

    I think that the two informal reasons for lack of collection of BMI could be easily addressed through some creative avenues. It would be interesting to see how Hartford county implemented the BMI testing to determine if a similar route to introduction of BMI testing in Montgomery county could be used.

    In California, BMI testing is performed regularly with fitness testing as part of the physical and health education requirements. It is not resource-intensive in the current implementation of the program. Informed consents are provided to all families who are able to opt out of BMI testing if there are any specific concerns regarding privacy or the actual process of BMI testing in a peer setting. However, from experience, very few parents in the Southern California area are choosing to opt out of the school BMI testing as it is being performed here.

  4. jessenjacob Says:

    I agree that obesity among children continues to be a major problem in our country. I am curious to find out how other counties were able to implement BMI collection but not Montgomery county. However, ultimately it is in the hands of the parents. While schools can support physical education and nutritional plans for lunches, it is the parents that have to take a stand against fast food and poor nutritional intake . I believe as parents we need to offer our children alternatives to fast food and promote healthy lifestyles. In addition, it doesn’t help when we are willing to sit down and watch television or play video games with our children, but do not take them outside for a walk or engage in physical activities. Hopefully, BMI collection will be implemented into the Montgomery public education system so that both the school system and the parents can formulate a plan to help control the obesity epidemic.

  5. nmartin2012 Says:

    It’s surprising and quite unbelievable to read that Montgomery County lacks the financial resources needed to formally collect BMI data, given that it is one of the most affluent counties in the United States. Given the silence of the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, it seems to me that there may be other issues at play here.

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