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A Florida mom received an unpleasant surprise in the mail recently. No, it wasn't an unexpected bill; it was a letter that said her 11-year-old daughter, Lily, was overweight. "Lily is tall, she's athletic, she's solid muscle," Kristen Grasso, told Fox 4 News. "By no means is she overweight." The girl, a star on her middle school volleyball team, had her Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated as part of a health screening mandated by Florida law. While parents can opt out, Grasso, a mother of four who says she tries to encourage her children to be active and feeds them healthy meals, said she thought the upcoming screenings would be about vision and hearing, not about weight.
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About 20 states have now adopted mandatory health screenings including weigh-ins to calculate the BMI of public school children as part of an effort to combat the childhood obesity epidemic. BMI is determined by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared, and it's widely used by physicians as an indicator of weight problems. Over the last 30 years in the United States, the rate of obese children has more than doubled and the rate of obese teens has tripled. But some parents and kids are concerned that sending home "fat letters," as they are derisively known, could lead to low self-esteem and bullying. Grasso said she was concerned for "kids who see the results of this test [who] may be classified as overweight but aren't, and the self-esteem issues that they may get."