‘Fat Letters’ and the Childhood Obesity Debate (AUDIO)

Experts, parents split over schools’ role in weight screening

If their kids are frequently tardy, truant or failing to turn in homework, parents of U.S. schoolchildren expect to be notified. And in some districts, they might be contacted about yet another chronic problem:obesity.

The “fat letter” is the latest weapon in the war on childhood obesity, and it is raising hackles in some regions, and winning followers in others.

“Obesity is an epidemic in our country, and one that is compromising the health and life expectancy of our children. We must embrace any way possible to raise awareness of these concerns and to bring down the stigmas associated with obesity so that our children may grow to lead healthy adult lives,” said Michael Flaherty, a pediatric resident physician in the department of pediatrics at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.

About 17 percent of U.S. teens and children are obese — three times the number in 1980, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And one in three is considered overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese puts kids at risk of developing serious health problems, such as heart disease. Too much weight can also affect joints, breathing, sleep, mood and energy levels, doctors say.

Full story of child obesity debate at WebMD