In 2003, the Arkansas General Assembly passed and Governor Mike Huckabee signed into law Act 1220. This multi-pronged initiative had one goal: to improve the health of Arkansas’s children. Following recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Society, one facet of Act 1220’s multiple intervention approach was the annual assessment and confidential reporting to parents of each public school student’s body mass index (BMI), a screening tool for obesity.
The Arkansas Child Health Advisory Committee, a committee mandated by the act and charged with making recommendations on the implementation of Act 1220, decided that parents should receive information regarding their child's BMI on a confidential health report issued through public schools. Reports such as these are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for all children every year.
At the request of the Arkansas Departments of Education and Health, in the 2003–2004 school year, ACHI created and implemented the BMI screening process for all public school children in the state. To accomplish this, ACHI put together a BMI Task Force in partnership with local school districts, the Arkansas Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, staff from Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and the UAMS College of Public Health. In 2007, during the 86th Arkansas General Assembly, Act 201 was passed to strengthen the protocol followed by school and nursing staff in performing the assessment, require parents to advise schools in writing if they do not wish to have their child's BMI assessed, and change the periodicity of assessments to even grades (kindergarten through grade 10).
ACHI continues to work closely with the Arkansas Departments of Education and Health to facilitate BMI data collection, conduct analyses, and deliver reports (see Resources below). This includes assisting with training and maintaining the web-based data entry system managed by ACHI.
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