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School-Based Weight Screening: The students' perspective

Karrie Kalich, MS, RD, Friedman School of Nutrition, Science and Policy, Tufts University, 150 Harrison Avenue, Tufts, MA 02111, 617-636-0446, kkalich@keene.edu, Virginia R. Chomitz, PhD, Institute for Community Health, 119 Windsor St., Ground Level, Cambridge, MA 02139, Robert McGowan, EdD, Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School,Physical Education Department, Cambridge Public Schools, 459 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138, and Aviva Must, PhD, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02111.

We evaluated student perceived utility, comfort, acceptance and intention to perform weight control/management activities as a result of school-based weight screening (SBWS). We surveyed 864 middle school-aged students (52% male; 42% white) attending five schools in Cambridge MA, an ethnically-diverse urban locale. Questionnaires were self-administered immediately following weight and height measurements taken by trained physical education (PE) teachers. 10% of respondents perceived themselves as overweight, 14% as at-risk for overweight. BMI-for-age categories from measured heights and weights indicated that 15% were overweight and 15% at-risk for overweight. Students reported SBWS provided “enough privacy” (80%) and was “comfortable” (60%). Only 16% reported feeling “very” or “somewhat uncomfortable” about having their weight measured in PE class. Overweight students were six times more likely to report feeling “very uncomfortable”, and twice as likely to report “not enough privacy” compared to healthy weight peers (both p<0.01). Among all students, 66% indicated weight screening should occur in their doctor’s office, 23% at home, 22% in PE class, and 14% in the school nurse’s office, and 2% reported “not at all.” Upon receiving screening information, students reported they would likely visit a doctor (32%), school nurse (19%), registered dietitian (18%), and weight loss clinic (11%). Students also reported being likely to increase exercise (54%), eat more fruits and vegetables (53%), sign up for a sport (40%), watch less television (19%), diet (21%), skip meals (20%), and take diet pills/herbal supplements (7%). Measuring the impact of SBWS will inform recommendations for improving and expanding school-based health initiatives.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Weight Management, Screening

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

School Environment: Changing Food and Physical Activity Choices

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA