The first paragraph on the American Heart Association’s Childhood Obesity website states, “Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects: Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. And excess weight at young ages has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood.”
It is no surprise that obesity is a problem in the United States. There has even been talk of making it an official disease where insurance companies will have to pay for procedures and medications to cure it.
Adults are overweight, children are overweight and the causes are plentiful, especially when it comes to our youth. How many of us know a young person who sits in a room playing video games all day? How many of us see children being fed through the fast-food window more today than we used to?
Let’s face it, in some cases parents are busy and making dinner can be tough. In other cases, parents have said the $1 menu at McDonalds is much more affordable than the fresh vegetables offered at the produce counter.
With so many factors giving obesity more victims year after year, one might want to question what the Boy Scouts of American organization is thinking when they are turning children away from true physical activity.
The Boy Scouts of American mandated that no one – adult or child – with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above could be accepted into the Jamboree, which is a summer activity gathering 30,000 boys in the mountains of Southern West Virginia.
Deron Smith, the director of public relations for Boy Scouts of America, said the policy isn’t meant to turn anyone away, but is only meant to protect the health and safety of the boys. It’s not a military boot camp, it’s camping, hiking, zip-lining and rock climbing. Come on. If one of the youth participating can’t handle a certain activity, then let them move to another one, but don’t banish them altogether.
What makes the policy even more disconcerting is it’s not up to a medical physician on who is turned away. Doctors are taken out of the equation, and while some youth might have a higher BMI because of muscle tone – it still doesn’t matter.
There is no disagreement that a BMI over 40 is definitely overweight, but aren’t we trying to encourage our youth to get fit, try new things and do something outside rather than playing video games all day?
Think of the emotional factor this policy will have on some of these youth. If you were turned away because you were too fat - would you try again? Would you be embarrassed around the friends who fit the BMI requirements? Would you return to those video games?
In a CNN report, Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician out of Atlanta said, “Any organization can make their own rules, but as a pediatrician I feel like we should be promoting physical activity for everybody, be as inclusive as possible, and only exclude from activity if there’s a physical threat to their health.”
The Boys Scouts of America have proven in recent decisions they can be inclusive in other important issues, maybe including overweight children in the organization’s biggest annual event can also be considered.