Pierre Dukan, MD and author of the best-selling Dukan Dietis dipping his toes into the political arena with his new book An Open Letter to the Future President out today. His most shocking proposal? That French children should be graded on their BMI, which is a measure of body fat based on height, weight, and activity level.
Dukan’s idea is that 18-year-old students who are preparing for the baccalaureate exam (the end-of-the-year test required for college admission in France) should be given an extra point if they stay within a healthy BMI of 18 to 25.
Not surprisingly, this idea has sparked outrage among French officials. After all, France does not have particularly high obesity rates — the statistics agency Eurostat reported last year that only 12.7 percent of French women and 11.7 percent of French men are considered to be obese, compared to more than 30 percent in the United Kingdom.
“The health problems of adolescents are sufficiently serious not to be taken lightly,” a ministry spokesperson said. “The same goes for the baccalaureate test. It’s a test of skills and knowledge, not of health.”
Meanwhile, Dukan told the French newspaper Le Parisien that his idea is not discriminatory because if students slim down in the two-year period before the exam, they would be awarded double points.
“Nothing will change for those who do not need to lose weight,” he said. “And for others, it will motivate them. There is nothing unhealthy about educating youngsters about nutrition.”
Although Dukan’s proposal might seem strange, he’s far from the first person to suggest that a child’s weight should be part of his or her report card. Several states including Arkansas and Wyoming mail home health report cards that include students’ BMIs and tips on living a healthy lifestyle. In September, Michigan’s governor announced that the state would begin in a state-wide registry of students’ BMIs as part of an initiative to monitor and combat childhood obesity. As of April, the country of Malaysia includes BMI on all student report cards. Across the board, though, these initiatives have been criticized for focusing too heavily on BMI, which is thought to be an imperfect indicator of health, and not doing enough to proactively teach kids how to maintain healthy lifestyles.