Getting Started with the Bounce Program: Understanding BMI

Wondering where to begin when it comes to improving your child’s health? Try following the standards of a medical weight loss program. Before you can explore solutions, it’s important to assess your child’s individual situation—including your child’s weight and the factors that may have contributed to excessive weight gain.

Determining If Your Child Is Overweight

Most parents are already familiar with childhood measurements. Infants and growing toddlers are measured at each well-child appointment. Height and weight are determined and plotted on a graph that shows where an individual child measures up to other children the same age and gender. Most pediatricians and family practitioners continue to use height and weight evaluations. In addition, percent BMI has been added as a standard measurement to track the potential for (or existence of) obesity. Due to the obesity epidemic, the CDC strongly urges pediatricians and family practitioners to measure % BMI for all children. In fact, both organizations have incorporated measurements of %BMI as part of their guidelines for well child visits. (The chart used as most physicians’ offices can be located on the CDC website.)

BMI and BMI Percentile

Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a number calculated from a person’s height and weight. It’s considered a somewhat reliable indicator of body fatness. Because children are still growing, BMIs can vary with a child’s age and aren’t accurate at determining whether a child is overweight. Instead, health care providers use a BMI percentile, which indicates the position of the child’s BMI number among children of the same sex and age whose weight is considered normal.

Although BMI percentile is not a perfect measure of fat, it functions as a good initial screening tool for childhood obesity. A child whose BMI is at the 50th percentile is close to the average of the population. A child whose BMI is between 85-94% is considered overweight, and between 95-99% – obese. Once a child is above 99%, that child is considered severely obese, because less than 1% of the population has a BMI greater than he or she does.

Thanks to this simple standard of measurement, it’s possible to determine whether or not a child needs help for obesity.