COMPASS measures healthy weight and obesity using Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a calculation that compares a person’s height to their weight:

BMI = weight in kg / height in meters2.

BMI indicates whether a person is over, under, or within a healthy body weight range.  COMPASS uses the BMI Classification system provided by the international obesity task force*, which is based on age and sex adjusted BMI cut-points.

Table: BMI Classification according to the international obesity task force
Category ...if their age and sex adjusted BMI cut-point is:
Healthy weight
Overweight 25 and
Obese 30

*Cole, T. J., Bellizzi, M. C., Flegal, K. M., & Dietz, W. H. (2000). Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: International survey. British Medical Journal, 320(7244), 1240-1243.

Why is obesity a health issue?

Obesity is strongly associated with a number of serious health complications, such as:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • asthma
  • arthritis
  • general poor health
  • reduced life expectancy.1

Compared to healthy-weight or overweight adolescents, adolescents who are obese are at a substantially higher risk of becoming severely obese as adults.2 Although the health issues listed above often manifest in adulthood, we are seeing some of these health problems emerge in obese children and adolescents.3

For adolescent girls, obesity doubles the risk for developing high-level nicotine addiction.4

Obese adolescents are often stigmatized, teased, and bullied. As a result it is not uncommon for these youth to experience:

  • psychological stress
  • low self-esteem
  • poor body image
  • vulnerability to depression
  • suicidal ideation.5

Adolescent obesity has also been linked to poorer academic performance.6,7

Schools are in a unique position to help reduce the number of youth who are obese. Contact your local public health professionals listed in your School Health Profile to get ideas on how your school can take action.

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1Mokdad, A. H., Ford, E. S., Bowman, B. A., Dietz, W. H., Vinicor, F., Bales, V. S., & Marks, J. S. (2003). Prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and obesity-related health risk factors, 2001. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(1), 76-79.

2The, N. S., Suchindran, C., North, K. E., Popkin, B. M., & Gordon-Larsen, P. (2010). Association of adolescent obesity with risk of severe obesity in adulthood. Journal of the American Medical Association, 304(18), 2042-2047.

3Cali, A. M. G., & Caprio, S. (2008). Obesity in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 93, S31-S36.

4Hussaini, A. E., Nicholson, L. M., Shera, D., Stettler, N., & Kinsman, S. (2011). Adolescent obesity as a risk factor for high-level nicotine addiction in young women. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49, 511-517.

5Puhl, R. M., & Latner, J. D. (2007). Stigma, obesity, and the health of the nation’s children. Psychological Bulletin, 133(4), 557-580.

6Taras, H., & Potts-Datema, W. (2005). Obesity and student performance at school. Journal of School Health, 75(8), 291-295.

7Kristjánsson, A. L., Sigfúsdottir, I., D., Allegrante, J. P., & Helgason, Á. R. (2009). Adolescent health behavior, contentment in school, and academic achievement. American Journal of Health Behavior, 33(1), 69-79.

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