F is for Fatty

Mexico has been in the news a lot lately not only for its war on drugs but also its failing battle against the bulge.  Recently schools have started giving out weight report cards in the hopes of changing raising awareness and changing unhealthy habits.

I thought it unlikely that parents wouldn’t realize their kids are overweight, but the authors of  a new NBER working paper find that “parents of children in the most obese classrooms were less likely to report that their obese child weighed too much relative to those in the least obese classrooms.”  They conclude that “as obesity rates increase, reference points for appropriate body weights may rise, making it more difficult to lower obesity rates.”*

It turns out that the program did increase parental knowledge but it didn’t have any significant effect on either the weight of the kids or parental behavior.  I’m guessing the parents were not very happy getting these report card–it seems pretty shaming both to the kids as well as to the parents. **

* Oklahoma has high obesity levels and I witnessed an excellent example today of reference points (or of incredible politeness).  While I was waiting for the doctor, the receptionist and the handy man had a 15 minute discussion proclaiming that there was no way that the other was obese, that it must be a mistake by the doctor (even though they were each about 70+ lbs overweight).  I wanted to intervene and give my two cents but it didn’t seem wise (or nice) so I stayed quiet.

** I don’t have any kids but I do have an elderly dog that was once called “chunky butt” by the vet, even though he hadn’t gained any weight and had always been at a healthy weight.  That was 3 years ago and you can see how defensive I still am about my dog’s weight.

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