NEW ORLEANS -- It's a story out of Georgia that went viral this week, and had parents accusing a school of "fat shaming" their kindergartener.
So we wanted to ask an expert if -- and how -- schools should get involved in a child's weight, and medical studies show the school may have crossed the line.
The Georgia public school form checked the nutrition box indicating a five-year-old's body mass index was too high. A letter required the parents to get a nutrition evaluation from a pediatrician, along with proof before their daughter came to school. A nationally recognized child exercise and obesity expert says schools should never be the food police.
"This is something that needs to happen in a clinic visit. The schools should never be in charge of determining whether or not a child needs help with their nutrition," explained Dr. Melinda Sothern, a professor and researcher at LSU Health Sciences Center in the School of Public Health.
Sothern says obesity is a disease with many contributing factors beyond nutrition, including sleep, physical activity, genetics, emotional conditions and the neighborhood you live in. Doctors are trained to make a diagnosis by charting a child's weight and height over six months, since their bodies change so much. But childhood obesity is a major health problem with life long consequences, so here's how schools can help.
"They need to look at their own backyard, look at their cafeteria, look at what they're serving the children, look at what kind of restrictions they have on vending machines, creating an environment where these kids can play more," Sothern said.
Parents should directly ask the pediatrician if your child is overweight and for a treatment plan.
"Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity impairs learning," Sothern said. "There are so many studies that show if parents just stop serving sugary beverages, the children grow into their weight magically."
Sothern recommends that children get an hour of outdoor play each day, nine hours of sleep, drink only water for thirst, drink low fat milk, get five servings of vegetables a day, especially raw ones, and no screen time younger than two years of age.
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