They claim that their tool allows employers to input BMI data and find out how much employees will cost the bottom line based on their “estimations” about prescriptions, hospitalizations, and work days lost.
There are so many ways that this is fucked up that it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, the calculation of these numbers are dubious at best for a number of reasons, starting with the fact they are based on BMI which is a simple ratio of weight and height that has many, many problems in this and any context besides providing a ratio of weight and height. Also, attempts to calculate the costs of obesity in the workplace have been gravely questionable.
An NBC news piece asks “Is the CDC Fueling Anti-Fat Bias in Workplaces?” Anyone who really needs to ask this should immediately go eat a big bowl of No Shit Sherlock Flakes, a dish which apparently isn’t on the menu at the CDC’s cafeteria. According to Deborah A. Galuska, associate director for science at the CDC’s division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity.
“To our knowledge, no organization has used the LEAN Works! tool to ‘target’ overweight workers for termination.” She points out, too, that the cost calculator’s webpage states: “CDC’s LEAN Works! should not be used to promote discriminatory practices such as considering weight in hiring or other personnel decisions. Weight discrimination is a serious issue and evidence indicates that it occurs in the work place.”
Well Deb, can I call you Deb?, I feel better already! No wait, I really don’t. You have no idea how people are using this tool and you know it. What you do know is that you just told businesses that the government wants them to know that employing fat people is bad for the bottom line. “To our knowledge” Really? I’m sure you’ll understand that your promotion of this tool seems to me to be a clear indication that you don’t have any knowledge to bring to bear on this situation. To test that, let’s do a quick multiple choice text:
Q: How can you tell if a tool you created is likely to promote discriminatory practices?
A: Experts can’t think of away it could be used to promote discriminatory practices
B: You have to tell the intended audience not to use it to promote discrimination.
C: Sorry I didn’t hear the question because I was busy promoting discrimination.
According to Deb, “Informing employers regarding the cost of obesity to their organization can help make the business case for providing a healthier work environment — one where nutrition and physical activity is valued.” First of all, you can’t tell from someone’s height/weight ratio (BMI) how highly they, or their employer, values nutrition and physical activity. Further, Ms. Galuska cannot show a single study wherein any changes in work environment have led to a long-term change in the BMI of employees. In fact, not a single study exists of any intervention wherein more than a tiny fraction of people have been able to create and maintain long-term body size manipulation and no study finds that even that tiny percentage are more health. The research that does exist regarding corporate wellness programs is highly questionable.
I think that if Deborah A. Galuska can’t think of a way promote to promote the creation of healthy work environments without promoting a tool that she has to tell people not to use to discriminate in hiring, then she should be fired immediately and replaced with someone who has some kind of base level competence to do her job, and that goes for her bosses – Janet Collins, PhD, Division Director and Ann O’Connor, MPH, Deputy Director, and anyone who is involved in the creation and promotion of this discriminatory tool. A healthy workplace includes not just physical health, but mental health and for that you need an environment where people don’t face stigma and discrimination.
If you’re not bothered by the government encouraging employers to discriminate against employees based on their height weight ratio – in fact giving them tools to do so – ask yourself where it ends. Ask yourself if you’re really comfortable with a world where the government encourages businesses to hire people on the basis of appearance and guesses about possible future healthcare costs rather than job skills.
Let the CDC officials responsible know what you think:
Contact Deborah Galuska: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Janet Collins: JCollins@cdc.gov
Contact Ann O’Connor: email@example.com
Contact CDC Director Tom Frieden: Tomfrieden@cdc.gov
For good, research-based information about workplace wellness, check out http://salveopartners.com/
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