The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Jamboree is currently taking place in the beautiful and exciting mountains of West Virgina, at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. The National Jamboree, a scout outing highly regarded as the penultimate scouting excursion takes place every 4 years with around 30,000 youth participants.
Events at the Jamboree include activities like hiking, zip lining, rock climbing, rafting, live concerts, games, and more. However, for the past two years, BSA has implemented a new policy regarding standards of admittance to the 10 day scouting adventure.
The new standard bans children with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 40 from being accepted to the Jamboree, and imposes further requirements on accepted children with BMI’s of 32 or higher, considered the cut off for obesity by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention. Even if a child, considered by the CDC standards to be obese, passes the additional scrutiny and is admitted into the program, there is no guarantee that they will be able to participate in its entirety.
The Jamboree itself not only has a BMI cutoff, but individual events within the trip also have BMI restrictions. BMI is a mathematical computation that takes into account only an individual’s height and weight. The measurement may be useful in helping physicians generally track the health of their patients, but it does not take into consideration body type, activity level, or other factors that may affect an individual’s ability to participate in high intensity physical activities.
CNN’s living well expert Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta, worries that the new standards are discriminatory, saying when she completes forms for patients to participate in summer camps or trips similar to the Jamboree that she takes into consideration many factors aside from BMI, including the child’s perception of their own abilities. Dr. Shu said that organizations like BSA, and other camps and organizations should be encouraging children to be physically active, and that the BMI cutoff is not the way to do it.
The new policy, according to Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations for BSA, as quoted by CNN, “is not meant to keep anyone out at all, and it’s just to make sure that they’re safe…We offer thousands of summer camp experiences (that) do not have this requirement.” the Boy Scouts new healthy living initiative has helped inspire children and adults across the country to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles according to Mr. Smith, however, there are many who find the BSA’s BMI cut off for the jamboree to be taking their initiative to far.
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance feels that the program not only discriminates against children but that it perpetuates stereotypes and bias based on weight. The organization asks that BSA determine admittance to the Jamboree not based on a blanket BMI cutoff, but on their participation as an active scout. BSA is unsure of how many children the new policy affected as children not meeting the requirement did not apply.
So should children be prevented from participating in certain activities because of their size? Safety is certainly a priority for any organization or group planning trips or activities for children, but what is the best way to determine child participation in high intensity physical activities?
To read the original CNN article click here.