Dietitian calls for change to B4 School Check to focus on wellbeing not weight

A New Zealand dietitian believes the Body Mass Index (BMI) measure which assesses a child’s weight, should be taken out of the B4 School Check in favour of targeting the wellbeing of families.

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Dietitian Lucy Carey gives her thoughts on the BMI. Source: Seven Sharp

The B4 School Check is a child’s last Plunket WellChild check, designed to give kids the best start at school.

The BMI is a measure that’s been used for years, where each child is given a classification based on their height and weight as part of their B4 School Check. 

Lucy Carey, a dietitian from Pegasus Health says the BMI is great when it comes to looking at whole populations of people but for an individual it can be “really inaccurate”.

Her research, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, suggests the BMI measure could actually be more harmful than helpful.

“Some people are being classified with a healthy BMI when they are metabolically unhealthy,” she says.

Ms Carey says lessening food intake for a child who might be classed as overweight can lead to the child feeling deprived.

“The things we want families to do, they are the same no matter what the size of the child," she says. 

“We want all families to be engaging in healthy behaviours, so why do we target them in the first place?"

Ms Carey says the BMI assessment should be taken out of the B4 School Check year.

“I think we should be talking to every family about wellbeing - not to specific families about weight.

“Let’s check in with; How are the kids sleeping at night? Are they having any issues with screen time? What are your cooking skills like? Are you managing to cook most nights?

“Let’s talk about the solutions not the problem and then if they want more support in those areas, we can get them more support.