If I said to you, dear readership, that there is an obesity epidemic in the United States, I would venture to say that there is no way you haven’t heard that before. The claim is everywhere from news programs, to movies like Super Size Me, and all over the Internet. It has also spawned an entire industry of what I like to call “get thin quick” schemes and my newest favorite is Sensa in which you shake some scary crystal-like chemicals onto your food and lose weight (insert eye roll and concerned about safety face here).
Being that I am not a scientist, I cannot say whether the obesity epidemic is real, though from the onslaught of media I see, I would conjecture it is legitimate. A Google search of “obesity epidemic in the US” returns over 5.5 million search results! From what I see, obesity is becoming a major factor in our lives, and as a follow up to my No Smoking post, being fat could now prevent you from getting a job.
I started thinking about this when a friend from college posted at the very bottom of the aforementioned blog post that her mother-in-law works at a hospital that will charge employees higher health premiums if they are obese, provide them treatment options, and allow the employee to garner money back through reduced healthcare rates after weight loss. There is no doubt that chronic conditions resulting from obesity like diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease drive up healthcare costs and thus, the cost of insurance premiums. The CDC says that chronic diseases (for which obesity is closely linked) account for 75% of our healthcare costs and, important to keep in mind, these diseases are preventable.
What about job applicants? Are there employers that are turning away obsess applicants? I’m so glad you asked. Victoria Hospital in Texas has begun turning away obese applicants with a Body Mass Index of 35 or higher and gave a figure of someone that weighs 210 pounds at five feet, five inches tall which fits their requirements, but according to the CDC is still obese! I suppose everything really is bigger in Texas. However in the case of Victoria Hospital, they state that an obese employee doesn’t project the image of what a healthcare worker should be. Hhmm, sounds discriminatory; however, just like smoking, weight is not a protected class under Federal employment law such as race, religion, or age (40 and over). This ban has stirred up quite the controversy. If you Google this topic as well, you could spend hours reading articles, blogs, pundits, all sorts of thoughts on obesity and preventing obesity in the workplace. Here is a topical article from McGladrey, which I would consider to be a reliable source.
I will not pass judgment on this topic mostly because I don’t yet know enough, but I do know this brings up a lot of questions. My friend Jen’s brother is a body builder so does pure muscle count as too heavy? What if a woman just had a baby? Do her premiums rise because she has 30 pounds of baby weight to lose? Also, if workplaces have a focus on wellness, why isn’t it working? Why is the overweight epidemic continuing to worsen? These are tough questions without a doubt.
So what do you think? Also, what have your companies done for wellness programs? Or, does your company ban obese applicants or charge higher insurance premiums? I want to know! Please leave in the comments section and I will follow up with more research.
Finally, don’t forget your vegetables!