Kids' BMI data may be added to vaccine tracking

Ten states would participate in pilot projects to assess the effectiveness of also collecting data on children's body mass index.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Nov. 17, 2009

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Congress is considering a new grant program to fund body mass index surveillance demonstration projects.

Rep. Christopher Carney (D, Pa.) introduced legislation Oct. 28 to establish grants that would fund expansion of 10 state's immunization records to include de-identified BMI data submitted by physicians.

All states maintain a registry in which physicians report and track children's immunizations. Adding a BMI field, supporters say, would allow researchers to efficiently track obesity trends. It also would help physicians keep the obesity problem front and center by using an objective measure to monitor their patients' weight.

While all states have an immunization registry, some are more sophisticated in their technology. Carney said states that receive the grants would be required to meet specific data standards and have an interoperable program allowing de-identified data to be shared widely. The program's effectiveness would be evaluated after three years, at which time, Carney said, he would look at expanding it further.

Once data are collected, they can be analyzed to track obesity rates across states, counties, school districts or specific ZIP codes. By looking at obesity trends over time, researchers can assess the effectiveness of obesity prevention programs in targeted areas, Carney said.

BMI surveillance programs have been established in other areas of the country, but Michigan was the first to adopt a statewide program facilitated by physicians. Arkansas started a statewide program in 2003, facilitated through its schools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates have tripled since 1980, with 16% of children age 6 to 19 classified as overweight or obese.

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