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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
3346.0: Monday, December 12, 2005 - Board 8

Abstract #115500

Arkansas’s experience with statewide Body Mass Index Assessments: Legislative mandates versus parental rights

Jennifer L. Shaw, MAP, MPH, Michelle B. Justus, MS, Kevin W. Ryan, JD, MA, and Joseph W. Thompson, MD, MPH. Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 5800 West 10th Street, Suite 410, Little Rock, AR 72204, 501-660-7561, shawjenniferl@uams.edu

BACKGROUND: In 2003, the Arkansas General Assembly passed legislation to combat childhood obesity. Act 1220 requires all public schools to improve nutrition standards, increase physical activity, and enhance obesity awareness. Notably, school districts must conduct annual body mass index (BMI) assessments for each student and confidentially report these results to parents. However, Act 1220 does not expressly address whether parents have a “right” to refuse their child's participation in the assessment. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate school district and parental adherence with Act 1220 requirements of annual BMI assessments. METHODS: We assessed year one statewide implementation, including assessment rates and reasons for non-participation. Eight different reasons for BMI non-assessment, including parental refusal and child refusal, were included in BMI protocol. Act 1220 does not require parental consent or notification for participation, though some schools incorporated this into their protocol. We compared school assessment rates for districts that notified parents in advance of assessment to districts that did not. RESULTS: Of the 300 participating school districts, only 9 (3%) notified parents in advance of the assessment via a letter and gave parents the opportunity to refuse participation. 13% of parents and children refused when given advanced notification and an option to participate while 5% of parents and children refused when no advanced notification or participation option was given. CONCLUSIONS: Advanced parental notification of BMI assessments results in reduced participation. If childhood obesity represents a public health epidemic, population based screening to identify at risk individuals should pursue strategies that optimize rates of screening.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Obesity, School-Based Health Care

Related Web page: www.achi.net

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

School Health Posters: Obesity Prevention

The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA