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PRO: Companies have right to hire fit employees

By Sonny Long
April 22, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2012 at 11:23 p.m.


BODY MASS INDEX

BMI = weight in pounds divided by height in inches squared x 703

The 703 is to convert the index from the original metric version of the formula.

Below 18.5 = Underweight18.5 to 24.9 = Ideal25.0 to 29.9 = Overweight30.0 to 39.9 = Obese40 and higher = Morbidly obese

Nutritionist Phylis Canion thinks employers have the right to determine how fit their employees should be.

"Some industries have determined that people who would be considered obese may not have the self-discipline, attention to detail and ability to make decisions as that of someone who chooses to take better care of themself," Canion said in response to whether companies should use body mass index as an employment criteria.

Another argument in favor of such a ban is lowering the company's health insurance costs.

"Companies should be allowed to enforce their own standards as they see fit, based on productivity and insurance claims," she said.

Barbara Yanta, of Victoria, wrote a letter to the editor of the Advocate defending Citizens Medical Center use of the BMI.

"Healthy BMI should be a policy with all hospitals, doctor offices and clinics," Yanta wrote.

She reiterated her stance in a telephone interview.

"Everyone should be concerned about their weight," said Yanta, who admits to struggling with a weight problem. "And people who work in the health field, I firmly believe should set examples by taking care of themselves."

Canion added that many jobs require a certain level of fitness.

"While the BMI may not be advertised as a criteria for some jobs, there are many that plays a critical role - just look at airline stewards, hunting guides, jockeys, astronauts, race car drivers and, of course, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders," she said.

Dr. Paul Donahue, whose column appears in the Advocate, wrote recently that the test itself can be useful.

"It's a better criterion of body composition (how much of the body weight is fat and how much is muscle and bone) than is weight obtained by stepping on a scale, but it's not perfect," Donahue wrote earlier this year.

As a certified nutritional consultant, Canion's clients take an interest in learning about their BMI.

"What individuals want when they come to me for counseling is how to become healthier," she said. "While many are not familiar with what BMI really means, once they see their number, they always want it lower."

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