Press Release - Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz
District Office

404 55th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11220
(718) 492-6334

The Assembly

Room 542
Legislative Office Bldg.
Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-3821

BMI Tests

Questions for Assemblyman Felix Ortiz:

  1. Tell us about your bill that would require BMI tests for children.

    The bill would require that schools shall annually measure the height and weight of every pupil to analyze each pupil's body mass index percentile by age and use the results of such analysis to furnish a report or letter to the pupil's parents or legal guardians containing the percentile information, an explanation of the results, general advice about what actions, if necessary, should be taken by the parents or guardians as a result of the pupil's body mass index, and resource information for nutrition and physical activity information and services.

    The Commissioner of Education, in cooperation with the Commissioner of Health, shall develop regulations for the measurement, analysis, and reporting of pupils body mass index, including but not limited to, protecting the confidentiality of the pupil and their parents or legal guardians, provided however, that the aggregate of body mass index analysis for an entire school or school district population shall be made available to the public on an annual basis.

  2. Explain what BMI is for people who do not know.

    BMI - a measurement derived from someone's weight and height - was only recently recommended as an additional routine measurement of growth. Doctors have been using the weight for stature (height) charts to assess the appropriateness of a child's weight, but that measurement is a less accurate indicator of body “fatness” and potential weight problems than BMI. Although some doctors don't use it yet, as charts for BMI become more widespread you may soon see it charted during visits to your child's doctor, if you don't already.

    Starting when your child is 2 years old, the doctor will probably determine the BMI at every routine checkup. He or she will plot this measurement on a chart against those of other children who are the same age. Because what is normal changes with age (babies have more “baby fat,” for instance), doctors must plot children's BMI measurements on standard charts rather than using a universal normal range for BMI as is done with adults. They also use separate charts for boys and girls to account for differences in growth rates and amounts of body fat as the two genders mature. That information is recorded in your child's medical record, and over several visits the pattern of measurements allows the doctor to track your child's growth.

    BMI is particularly helpful for identifying children and adolescents who are at risk for becoming significantly overweight as they get older. In older children and teens, there is a strong correlation between BMI and the amount of body fat. Therefore, those with high BMI readings - and probably high levels of fat - are most likely to have weight problems when they are older. If doctors can identify these at-risk children early on, they can monitor their body fat more carefully and potentially prevent adult obesity through changes in eating and exercise habits.

    The formula for BMI is weight (lb) x 703
    height (in) x height (in)

  3. What made you decide to try to have this bill passed?

    I have been working on the childhood obesity issue for 4 years. I also sponsored the law creating New York's Childhood Obesity Prevention Program in the State Health Department and sponsor other bills to: require nutrition labeling on chain restaurant menus; require health insurance coverage for Medical Nutrition Therapy; increase the quality and quantity of physical education in schools; restrict the sale of junk food in schools; screen for diabetes as part of the annual school health physical; and, provide funding for obesity prevention efforts through levies on junk food, video games and advertising.

    This is one more tool to fight this problem.

  4. How will it work? Who will give the test? What is the plan if the children seem to be overweight?

    Please refer to the answer to question 1. I expect a school nurse or other trained staff person to do the measurements the way many schools already do. If the child is overweight their BMI report will include general advice about what actions, if necessary, should be taken by the parents or guardians as a result of the pupil's body mass index, and resource information for nutrition and physical activity information and services.

  5. Do any other states have this already and are others joining in?

    Arkansas is doing it and Texas is proposing it.

  6. What about parents saying that this is up to them to monitor or that it will embarrass their children?

    Child obesity is an epidemic threatening a generation's health and our future workforce and health care system. We are spending $75 billion in this country on obesity-related health care and NYS is spending $3.5 billion on Medicaid costs. This is a societal problem not just a family one.

    Our bill includes specific language to protect children's privacy. I am the sponsor of a law helping teenagers suffering from Eating Disorders so I am sensitive to embarrassing children about their diet and weight and would not do anything I thought would increase the risk of that Disorder.

  7. When would this begin to take effect if the bill is passed? How likely is it that it will be passed?

    The effective date is six months after it is passed provided all regulations are in place. There is a Senator introducing a version of this bill and the Governor included BMI reporting language in his recent budget proposal.