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What Made BMI Popular?

In the last post, we put BMI under the radar and determined it was a poor way of measuring obesity. In a nutshell, the BMI system was great for large groups but not individuals, was intended for determining the average male, and only measured a person’s entire body weight over height. Now that we know what we do know, that leaves us on a quest of utmost importance.  Find the better indicator of measurement for obesity. So, where do we start?

First, we need to look at what made the BMI scale so popular in the first place. After all, a good chunk of people in medical, education, and health insurance fields are still using this system today. Why would people still be applying such a flawed method of measurement?

What Made BMI Popular?

  • It was recommended to various institutions by the government.

National health and welfare (despite what certain politicians would have you believe) has always been part of the government’s interest. When the American people were starving, they would create programs to feed everyone. When American children were sick and dying of measles and polio, there were teams of scientists that would focus on creating and distributing vaccines to everyone (apart from Tuskegee). And when children were starting to gain weight from going to school and working less in factories, the government had a vested interest in the obesity that suddenly cropped up.

Naturally, as a response to the waves of obesity issues that came and went to America, the government was constantly looking for solutions to the problem, such as instituting the President’s physical fitness test, and coming up with various forms of measurement to keep track of America’s progress in fighting “softness”.

So, when the BMI Index was picked up and reutilized by American scientists to try and measure obesity, it would make sense for the government at the time to urge other institutions to use this new measuring process, such as public schools, the military, insurance companies, and hospitals, all of which had either partial government funding at the time, or was all government run.

But if something was put in place by the and it no longer works, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to find something better for the people?

  • It is an easy measurement process that cost nothing.

Considering universal healthcare is one of the important things people in politics argue about alongside finances, then it should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that the healthcare industry is an expensive one.  Procedures are costly, along with medical school for doctors and nurses, equipment, medication, and dealing with insurance.  It is a tangled financial web that all of us in America have woven, and given our current national financial situation, doctors and patients try to find ways to save time and money, when people make doctors visits.

Chances are, a good chunk of the doctors that perform this measurement know very well that it is outdated, but still perform it anyway to save themselves and their patients time and money. Unless patients are willing to pay extra for the testing necessary to figure out their actual fat and muscle content, doctors are not going to put out that much effort when there are several other patients in the waiting room.

But where do we draw the line between convenience and accurate health assessment?

  • It is more convenient to update a current measurement system than to come up with a new one entirely.

Traditions, and rituals on both a large and small scale exists because it helps us function. Human beings by nature are habitual creatures, and it takes a great amount of effort to come up with a system of measurement or a scale that works across the board throughout the country.

So, if a group of people have worked hard to create a system that works for many people, to only find flaws in it years later, they will come at a crossroads, either scrap the entire system together and come up with a new one entirely or adjust and adapt the current system based on new findings.

Both options certainly take time, energy and cooperation from people across the country. But it is much easier to cooperate with something that has already been established as a baseline, than to come up with something entirely new.

But how much tweaking does a system need before people using it start to realize that something is broken beyond saving?

Next Week

Now that we know why the BMI system was put in place we can start to figure out if there is a more accurate alternative out there to measuring obesity. Is it possible to find a cheap, easy, and more accurate standard measurement of obesity? Find out next week.