Waist Not, Want Not?


An article in last Friday’s New York Times about efforts to curb waistlines in Japan might have the effect of making your eyes bulge. It covers the effects of a new Japanese law mandating that local governments and companies measure the waistlines of citizens ages 40 through 74 annually and steer folks to dietary education if they exceed thresholds established by the International Diabetes Federation. What’s more, governments and companies face financial penalties for failing to make targets.

The Times reports on widespread public urgency this is creating, with gyms packed–and critics concerned that the law will have the negative effect of overmedication and overexercise. And it remains to be seen how effective the law is in reaching positive health outcomes.

With the problem of growing rates of childhood obesity in society and the efforts of schools to help, what can we take from Japan’s experiment? Do you believe we should have more monitoring, health education, and even penalties in our efforts to support healthier kids? How much is too much?

Share your thoughts, and describe some of the work your school or community is doing in this area. Then, visit ASCD pages on Healthy School Communities and the Whole Child Initiative.