(Photo: Boy Scouts of America)
The Boy Scouts of America has sparked a new debate with the announcement that obese scouts will not be allowed to participate at the National Scout Jamboree, which begins on Tuesday in West Virginia.
"The national jamboree cannot accept for participation any applicant with a BMI of 40.0 or higher," organizers wrote on the official website, noting that obesity has been found to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
"Anyone who is obese and has multiple risk factors for cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary disease would be at much greater risk of an acute cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary event imposed on them by the environmental stresses of the Summit," the website explains.
"Our goal is to prevent any serious health-related event from occurring, and ensuring that all of our participants and staff are 'physically strong.'"
Still, Jamboree Medical Staff will examine applicants whose BMI falls between 32.0–39.9 based on a number of factors to consider whether they should be allowed to participate in the jamboree.
The scouts participating are going to be tested in a number of challenging ways over the July 15-July 24 period. There will be more hiking involved, as well as climbing, mountain biking, rappelling, rafting and skateboarding – meaning scouts will have to be in pretty good shape in order to successfully participate.
"Teaching Scouts and Scouters how to live a sustainable life, which includes a healthy lifestyle, and the health of our participants are important goals of the jamboree," said Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization, according to NBC News.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, while more than one third of children and adolescents were found to be overweight or obese in 2010.
"We required a level of fitness in order to come to the Jamboree that we haven't required before," added Dan McCarthy, director of the BSA's Summit Group, according to the Associated Press. "And that has motivated an enormous return in terms of both kids and adults getting serious about improving their health."
A Fox News poll asking readers whether they agree with the Boy Scouts decision found that only 35 percent of the 3100 plus votes said that it "makes good health sense." Another 47 percent said that the decision is "blatant discrimination," while 18 percent were not sure.
In May, the youth organization found itself at the center of national controversy when it voted to lift its longstanding ban on gay youths, although it kept the ban on gay adult troop leaders.