Obesity: Recording Kids' Body Mass Index (BMI)

Screening for Childhood Obesity a Top Priority

As the childhood obesity epidemic continues, making sure our patients get the healthy lifestyle counseling and treatment they need is one of our main priorities. That’s why we’ve set our own Nemours-wide goal to make sure that body mass index (BMI), which is a calculation of weight and height that estimates body fat, is recorded in at least 80% of all of our patients at least once a year.

We began in 2007 and by the end of the year we’d almost achieved our goal, with 77% of our patients’ BMI’s checked. We kept going and the very next year we went beyond even our own expectations. By the end of 2008, Nemours had checked 85% of all patients’ BMIs. Although 80% is our current goal, we aim for 100% as a health care system. At Nemours, we’re unique in our strategy: Our goal is to recognize obesity and capture our patients' BMI as we encounter them.

Tracking BMI is so important because it allows us to identify those children moving up in their percentiles before their weight becomes a problem so that we can share helpful strategies early on. We can also pinpoint those kids who are at risk for the side effects of obesity that otherwise probably would not have been found. These side effects include high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and liver problems.

And by storing kids’ BMI data in our electronic medical record (EMR) system, we can assess the impact of our ongoing obesity prevention initiatives throughout our organization like Nemours Health and Prevention Services’ healthy lifestyle program, 5-2-1-Almost None. Plus, all of the health care providers in our system use the same EMR and can share the progress of our patients.

By putting prevention of childhood obesity at the very top of our to-do list as a healthy system, our aim is to keep kids from becoming overweight or obese in the first place and to treat them as soon as possible if they do. Addressing potential problems with overweight and obesity today (like type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol) can help keep them from becoming far bigger problems (like stroke, heart disease, and heart failure) further down the adult road.