THE BLOG

The Full Picture of America's Health Includes BMI as a Vital Sign


The need is clear. Today's generation is the first one expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Our military needs may be unmet by a population that is not physically fit to serve. And Americans continue to spend $147 billion a year in medical costs stemming from obesity. This tide is unsustainable.

To fight back, we need to begin with a simple but powerful tool. Body Mass Index (BMI) is the core measurement used to determine if a patient is overweight or obese, and consequently at risk for triggering more than 60 other chronic, often life-threatening diseases. By measuring and tracking BMI, doctors and patients together can monitor, address or help prevent the onset of illnesses such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, arthritis, dementia and many forms of cancer.

Establishing BMI as a "vital sign" is a core first step towards getting America healthy again. Today, Congressman Ron Kind and a bipartisan group of others are introducing a bill to that will do just that. The Healthy CHOICES Act will give the medical community the tools it needs to measure, diagnose, treat and begin to reverse this epidemic. It will ensure that children's BMI is tracked through vaccination records, and make BMI a standard part of electronic health records for all adults and children. Additionally, it would establish grant program to help states disseminate information about BMI results to parents.

There are few things we do in life without knowing the full picture first. We wouldn't change the family budget without knowing what's in our bank account; we wouldn't hit the road on I-95 without a traffic report; you certainly wouldn't undergo a medical procedure without knowing the diagnosis. Likewise, to get healthy and to stay healthy, we need a complete picture of our health. That includes all the standard vitals we know --blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate and temperature-- as well as whether our body is at a healthy weight.

Congress has an opportunity to help put America on the road to better health. In addition to standardizing BMI as a vital sign, the Healthy CHOICES Act --a bipartisan bill that offers the first comprehensive federal legislative framework to combat the obesity epidemic-- would equip doctors to diagnose and treat obesity and expand treatment and preventive services . And it would make good health a part of our every-day lives outside of the doctor's office through a variety of measures to make physical activity and healthy eating more accessible and more achievable, especially for at-risk communities. I commend Congressman Kind for introducing this important piece of legislation - now is the time to act!