Companies across the U.S. are trying to get their staff healthier. With rising healthcare costs, who can blame them?
Healthier Employees = Healthier Bottom Line
Some have looked into wellness programs for their employees, while others have chosen a stricter approach by directly penalizing smokers. One company has changed the rules altogether:
Victoria Hospital in Texas recently decided to reduce their candidacy pool by vetoing those with a BMI of 35 or above. Obviously many are upset by this new development; some wonder how the company will enforce this in the long haul, and others are claiming this is discrimination against the obese.
Is BMI truly a health indicator we can trust?
Previously, I thought a person with a BMI of 35 or higher was probably on their deathbed. However, after reading this article, I learned this is not necessarily the case. Through a Flickr feed of photo examples, the author showed how BMI alone might not be a fair way to gauge obesity. In my opinion, some of the individuals did not look overweight, even though their BMI’s were elevated. However, with Victoria Hospital’s new protocol, these people wouldn’t be eligible to apply for positions. I wonder, are we headed down a path whereby job effectiveness will be determined by dress or pant size?
Well, as much as it hurts for anyone to be told they are overweight, hospitals should reflect a healthy standard. I have heard of teachers being asked to refrain from drinking soda in front of their students. If educators are expected to be role models, isn’t it only natural for health professionals to follow suit? I can appreciate what Victoria hospital is trying to promote, but this is certainly a complex issue. Employees with a BMI under 35 could be perceived as healthy, happy and competent in their job – by both their coworkers and patients. If those same employees choose to leave work and chain-smoke, then should that just be their own choice? Oftentimes we live by the rule ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Overweight, Unhealthy, or Obese?
Victoria hospital is undoubtedly making a radical change in the way they choose candidates, but isn’t there a fairer method to use? Scientists have argued that measuring obesity level by BMI is not accurate. Plus, how will Victoria Hospital maintain their new scheme long-term? Will they commit to monitoring existing employee BMI range? What will happen if an employee exceeds the ‘permitted’ level? Since they are enforcing a company policy, should they allow employees to workout during shifts?
What are your thoughts on this topic? Should companies be allowed to discriminate based on BMI? Do you think this idea will spread to other industries?