Health Education

Body Mass Index (BMI)

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What is body mass index or BMI?

Body mass index, or BMI as we call it for short, provides a guideline based on weight and height to determine if a child is considered well proportioned, underweight or overweight. We will review and discuss your child’s BMI every year at his or her well visit.

How is BMI measured?

Although children grow at a predictable pattern, their body mass will change depending on their age and gender. Girls and boys will differ in their body mass as they mature. Therefore, we plot a child’s BMI on a reference chart based on age and gender. These charts are used as references from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are used nationally. As a child’s gets older, we can also interpret their BMI with a numerical value.

When should I worry about my child’s BMI?

Generally, the guidelines for interpreting a child’s BMI are:

  • A child is considered proportioned if his or her BMI is between 5th and 85th percentile.
  • A child is considered underweight if his or her BMI is under the 5th percentile.
  • A child is considered overweight if his or her BMI is equal or over the 85th percentile.
  • A child is considered obese if his or her BMI is equal or over the 95th percentile.

As children get older and as adults, BMI can be interpreted by using a BMI calculator, such as the one found on the CDC’s website at

BMIs are considered references and in the event your child is not within the “normal” range, we want to discuss this with you. There are circumstances when the BMI of a child is not an accurate measurement to use, such as children with larger muscle mass. However children who are considered overweight or obese are statistically more likely to become overweight or obese adults and are at higher risk for developing chronic medical problems such as Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We would love to help your child not only be healthy now but also become a healthy adult.