Obese kids miss more school

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Nutrition: Health, Day Care & Education

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University finds that being overweight is the best predictor for school absenteeism. Researchers say that elementary school kids who are obese miss more school days than their normal-weight classmates.

"It's clear in all the literature that the more days of school you miss, it really sets you up for such negative outcomes: drugs and AIDS and (teen) pregnancy," said Andrew B. Geier, lead author of the study. "At this early age to show that already they're missing school, and missing school is such a major setup for big-time problems, that's something school policy people have to know," he said.

Researchers looked at data from 1,069 fourth-to-sixth graders at nine Philadelphia schools for one year. Using the body mass index, they classified each child as underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. During the 180 -day school year, normal weight kids missed 10.1 days, overweight kids missed 10.9 days and obese kids missed 12.2 days. For some reason, the underweight children had the fewest absences - 7.5 on average. Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that of all the factors to consider when looking at school absenteeism predictors - such as student performance, race, socioeconomic status, age and gender - weight tops them all.

They don't know why obese kids miss more school and doubt that medical reasons are to blame at such a young age. Instead, they think it is social stigma that makes an obese child want to stay home. "They're missing school because they don't want to be bullied and called names," Geier said.

First of all, I am blown away that kids regularly miss 10 days of school per year. That seems like a lot to me. And the difference in missed days between normal weight kids and obese kids isn't all that much. What grabs my attention is the underweight children missing far fewer days of school. Maybe they should look into that.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.