Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) is all the rage as far as evaluating health. Stable housing, education, access to transportation, polluted water/air, etc. are all an important part of the discussion. But there’s an additional element that we must include in that discussion as well: an individual’s ownership in their own health.

In healthcare, we used to say that the next major development in decreasing the healthcare costs were “when the patient accepts responsibility.” When people stopped smoking to lower blood pressure and cholesterol rates; or lost weight to impact a host of negative health issues.

For perspective, when I was young, our family had no car, no television, and no phone. We had to walk everywhere, including to school. For longer trips, we took the bus (public transportation). My father rode the bus to work and back every day, six days a week. We were forced to be fit.

A recent study suggested that roughly 40-60% of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese, and we know that being overweight or obese leads to many health-related problems. Think cardiovascular disease, diabetes, increased risk of cancer, etc. I wish our society would focus on helping people learn to control their weight and to be aware of their body mass index, or BMI. It would be a powerful way to improve health in our country.

BMI isn’t perfect but is a crude indicator of one’s relative health and overweight status. While not exact, it is easily calculable, free for everyone, and a helpful gauge of where one stands relative to overall health.

To calculate BMI, you need your weight in pounds and your height in inches. The formula is: ((weight in pounds/ height in inches squared) x 703.)The following is a hypothetical BMI calculation of a man: assume the man weighs 155 lbs. and is 5’7”, or 67 inches, tall. The BMI would be: (155/(67×67) x703) = BMI of 24.27.

To interpret this individual’s health, find the BMI number within the standard BMI range (these and more specific BMI tables are widely available online):
Underweight = BMI less than 18.5
Normal = BMI in the range of 18.5-24.9
Overweight = BMI between 25-29.9
Obese = BMI over 30

While the BMI is a crude barometer, you can see this hypothetical man is at the upper boundary of normal. BMIs vary for men, women and children so the reference below is specific to males aged 20 and over.

Being aware of your BMI can be a wake-up call for many of us and serve as a reminder that we need to pay attention to caloric intake and calories burned (through exercise). It’s unfortunate that most people don’t know their BMI and miss this easy tool for health.

I encourage everyone to calculate your BMI, look at the scale, and then look in the mirror. Have ownership in your health and make yourself a promise to do what you can for your own better health.


Featured news

Ted’s Take: TG not in Part C

Ted’s Take: TG not in Part C

Medicare Part C, sometimes called Medicare Advantage, is touted as the efficient way to deliver quality care to enrollees. As someone on Medicare, I am not in a Medicare Part C. Why? Because I know better.

read more

Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis
Foundation for Health and Policy

PO Box 130
Highland, Maryland 20777

Media contact: 202.548.0133