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Teachers told not to discuss BMI under education guidelines

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Kylie Burton – a former teacher and eating disorder awareness campaigner – said there should not be a “one size fits all” approach to health education.
education guidelines teachers bmi

New education guidelines advise teachers not to discuss BMI (Body Mass Index).

The changes to the national curriculum aim to improve health and nutrition education.

The updated advice includes warnings against calorie counting and describing food as “good” or “bad” across all subjects, including physical education classes.

Body image advocates say the updates will help prevent eating disorders.

About BMI

BMI categorises people based on height and weight. It was developed in the 1830s by a mathematician as a way to find the ‘average’ male body.

In recent years, some doctors have advised against using it as a standalone tool to measure health.

National eating disorder charity the Butterfly Foundation has called BMI an “outdated” and oversimplified measure, which “does not acknowledge the differences between muscle mass and fat distribution [or] consider age, sex, bone structure… or ethnicities”.

BMI advice for teachers

The new advice tells teachers to avoid calculating BMI.

It instructs educators not to focus on pitting “good” and “bad” foods against each other, but rather to focus on the health benefits of certain foods.

Kylie Burton – a former teacher and eating disorder awareness campaigner – said there should not be a “one size fits all” approach to health education.

Body image

Following calls to change the curriculum by body image advocacy groups, Burton said classrooms should not be a space where students are comparing themselves to others, which can lead to “disordered eating patterns”.

In 2020, Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital saw a 63% increase in eating disorder presentations compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

What now?

The agency overseeing the Australian curriculum, ACARA, said it wants to ensure “young people are equipped with the key information and skills they need when it comes to health and wellbeing”.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare conceded more needs to be done to improve health and wellbeing eduction across Australia.

State and territory education departments will now look at implementing the advice set out in the curriculum.

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