LANSING, Mich. (WLS) - In an attempt to combat Michigan's childhood obesity epidemic, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday that the state would begin tracking kids' body mass index through the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. Although the policy would be one of the most extensive government anti-childhood obesity efforts, pediatricians were divided over whether it would have the desired impact.
The tracking system would encourage pediatricians to calculate patients' BMI using height and weight measurements, and report these numbers to the state through the existing immunization tracking system, the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. The numbers would be reported anonymously, meaning that the child's identity would not be connected to his or her BMI in state records.
The hope is that having doctors track height and weight in this way would encourage more discussion among parents, kids and doctors about the dangers of being overweight, says Geralyn Lasher, director of communications at the Executive Office of the Governor.
The new policy does not require doctors to discuss obesity with kids and parents, nor does it provide physicians with the extra time or training needed to discuss weight problems -- a narrowness of focus that some doctors believes will limit the policy's effectiveness.
Others questioned the policy's use of BMI, an obesity metric some pediatricians call oversimplified and misleading, especially in children.
Some worry that discussing obesity in terms of BMI with parents and kids will be misleading, as tracking BMI does not reflect positive changes overweight kids can make in their activity level.
But Keith Ayoob, director of the Rose R. Kennedy Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, defended the use of BMI, saying that while it's not a perfect measure, it's the "best we've got" for measuring obesity on a population.
While Michigan's BMI tracking system will most likely become only an entry point for further discussion and intervention in cases of obesity, any pediatricians still believe it's worth the effort.