Arkansas Wins National Honor for BMI Assessment Project

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas School BMI Assessment Project, which targets the state’s obesity epidemic, has been chosen one of 10 nationwide winners of the Third Annual Innovation in Prevention Awards presented by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


The project was carried out by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) in partnership with its sponsors – the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield.


The awards were created as part of President Bush’s Healthier US initiative and HHS’ continuing focus on preventing chronic disease and improving Americans’ lives. They highlight businesses and organizations that are leading efforts to promote healthier lifestyles in seven different areas. The BMI Assessment Project was honored in the Public Sector category. 


“This project is a model for other communities across the country as we strive to improve the health of our nation’s youth,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.


The project, which involved measuring the body mass index (BMI) of Arkansas schoolchildren to determine overweight and obesity, is dedicated to providing comprehensive, multifaceted approaches that bring families, schools and communities together to combat the obesity epidemic.


Joe Thompson, M.D., M.P.H., ACHI director, received the award Oct. 24 at a luncheon in Washington D.C., on behalf of the state of Arkansas and the partner organizations.


“The Arkansas BMI Assessment Project has not only helped raise parental awareness about their children’s risks related to obesity, but it has also stimulated changes in school nutrition, physical activity, and health education programs,” said Thompson. “Through this successful major initiative that stimulates dialogue, discussion, and community action, we look forward to learning with other states what works in addressing the obesity crisis among our youth.”


In 2003, ACHI oversaw the uniform and confidential BMI assessment of the state’s public school children, distributing individual Child Health Reports to parents detailing BMI classifications and health risks associated with children being overweight. Schools and school districts were also given reports broken down by percentage of students’ BMI classifications. Additionally, a comprehensive statewide report was publicly released to community leaders and elected officials detailing the depth and breadth of the childhood obesity epidemic among Arkansas children. 


Arkansas was the first state to undertake such a comprehensive assessment of children’s health. As of June 1, 2005 ACHI had collected a second round of data on 442,940 students—97% of the students in the state—as the first steps to track long-term changes and focus state resources to develop programs to positively change the health of Arkansas children.


ACHI was established in 1998 as a non-partisan, independent health policy center. Its mission is to serve as a catalyst for improving the health of Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy and collaborative program development.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.


UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.