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A recent study of patient data from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) showed GPs are not checking their patients’ Body Mass Index (BMI) or measuring their waist circumference. The article’s authors interpret this as a shortcoming but these doctors may actually be avoiding the trap of thinking simplistic measurements help patient health and well-being.
The paper’s authors assume – as does the National Health and Medical Research Council – that if GPs weighed and measured their patients, they’d be better able to address weight-related health problems.
But there are good reasons to be sceptical about whether scales are an effective weapon in the so-called “war on obesity”. In fact, weighing people may do more harm than good by giving an unreliable picture of the complex realities of health and weight.
Take, for example, Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by the square of height (in metres). BMI was originally devised to determine the “average” person in a given population. While a population is obviously made up of individuals, the two are clearly not the same thing and BMI is a blunt instrument when it comes to the latter.(Post continues after gallery.)