Body Mass Index (BMI) at School

Measure Weight

Gathering students’ BMIs, in the aggregate, can help schools monitor the success of obesity prevention efforts; screening students’ BMIs for individual health assessment purposes is more controversial and requires schools to address privacy and parent communication, among other issues.

Here is a summary of BMI assessment recommendations for schools, based on a review of expert guidance from the the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, and others. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list and the links to other resources.

Assess students BMIs, confidentially and in aggregate, to track the prevalence of obesity and evaluate the success of obesity prevention programs (1,2)

If students BMIs are screened for individual health assessment purposes, ensure that schools address the following: (2, 3, 4,5)

  • student privacy
  • student safety and support
  • staff training
  • accuracy of data collection
  • sensitive and informative parent/guardian communication
  • referral to community resources for follow-up, as needed
  • healthy eating and physical activity promotion, using science-based strategies

BMI Assessment at School-Source List

1. Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Healthy Schools Program Framework. 2009. Accessed July 11, 2011.

2. American Heart Association. Policy Position Statement on Body Mass Index (BMI) Surveillance and Assessment in Schools. 2008. Accessed July 11, 2011.

3. Pekruhn C. Preventing Childhood Obesity: A School Health Policy Guide. Arlington, VA: Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, National Association of State Boards of Education; 2009.

4. Lagarde F, LeBlanc CMA, McKenna M, et al. School policy framework: implementation of the WHO global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2008.

5. Institute of Medicine. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance.Washington, D.C.: Institute of Medicine; 2005.