A Smart Incentive or Obesity Persecution?

French diet guru Pierre Dukan is urging his government to give extra marks in school for a healthy BMI. The Telegraph reports:

“Obesity is a real public health problem that is rarely – if at all – taken into account by politicians,” Mr Dukan told newspaper Le Parisien ahead of the book’s launch.

Mr Dukan said his education plan would be “a good way to sensitise teenagers to the need for a balanced diet.”

He denied it would punish overweight children, saying: “There is nothing wrong with educating children about nutrition. This will not change anything for those who do not need to lose weight. For the others, it will motivate them.”

This reminds me of the fitness test the University of Chicago administers to all incoming undergraduates, and the rampant cheating it inspires. The “punishment” for failing the fitness test was P.E. classes through your first year. So on the one hand, you had those who would try to trick the fitness test (these tips are traded on message boards before school starts, one being holding the heart rate meter at varying intensities to trick it) in order to place out of gym classes. On the other hand, you had students who wanted to take the P.E. classes, trying to game their way into them, since those who fail the fitness test have priority status into all gym classes.

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  1. Clare says:

    Grade them on their number of sick days. Even better, and a much more direct measure of their health!

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    • Enter your name... says:

      So the kid who spent a month in the hospital because a drunk driver hit him flunks health, but the kid with perfect attendance now, and who’s obesity means he’ll have a heart attack in his 40s, gets a perfect grade? I don’t think so.

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  2. Rrose Selavy says:

    Most of us who are overweight are pretty well aware of it. This does nothing to help people achieve a more desirable, healthy weight.

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  3. Dan says:

    Why not bring back daily gym class?

    Back in the day I had gym class every day at school and we were graded on it. The gym teacher didn’t fail all the fat kids, but you failed if you didn’t try or make progress. There were fitness tests of strength and endurance. I got exposure to tons of different sports and status was associated with fitness and athleticism and not merely who could be the most sarcastic in the cafeteria.

    Is it any wonder that fitness has declined since then?

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  4. Dan says:

    I have got to say, weight shaming is big in Japan and there are hardly any overweight people there. They have the longest life expectancy of any nation in the world.

    My Japanese wife has born me three kids and she remains in terrific shape. She is happy to make fun of my weight, cutting a sharp insult and then soothing it over with warm words. Its been good for my health I think.

    When did we get so thin skinned? Overweight will shorten y0ur life, reduce your odds of being able to have kids and give you lots of health problems. It’s not cool.

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  5. Anna says:

    According to the CDC:

    1) Chronic conditions are responsible for 75 % of all healthcare costs in the U.S.
    2) Chronic conditions are behavioral in nature and are entirely preventable.

    Actions have consequences.

    But today those who are doing themselves harm are not paying the cost of that harm. According to a report on NPR last week, the least healthy 50% of the population are responsible for 97% of healthcare costs. The healthiest 50% (the ones who produce only 3% of the costs) are enablers. They pay the bills for those who make themselves sick.

    To fix our healthcare system we must reconnect actions with consequences. We must stop enabling willful healthfulness.

    Each and every one of us has every right to eat exactly what we want. We should also pay the costs of our choices.

    While BMI may not be perfect, there are some very good measures to determine health. Start grading kids in school. More importantly, continue to grade adults by charging them health insurance premiums commensurate with their unhealthy behaviors. Charge them what they cost the system…. just like car insurance.

    That’s when we’ll see a rush to health.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      The CDC says nothing at all like “2) Chronic conditions are behavioral in nature and are entirely preventable.”

      Genetic disorders are chronic conditions. They are 100% non-behavioral.

      Type 1 (“juvenile”) diabetes is a chronic condition. It is 100% non-behavioral.

      Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions. Almost all of them are 100% non-behavioral.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  6. CL says:

    Just make gym class mandatory for all freshmen. Measure the weights of all incoming freshmen and then through their years (including 5th year seniors). This should give some trends on at least weight, which my not neatly correlate with health (one reason BMI is not the best measure). Schools could give a wealth for health credit (i.e,. slight tuition reduction), but they’re making too much money off of the pop/candy machines to care.

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  7. Curt says:

    It seems to me there’s a difference between health awareness/education and ‘lol u r so fat go 2 da gym fatty.’

    Also isn’t BMI just a collection of average height/weight ratios anyway? Sounds like a meaningless metric, but I could be wrong.

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  8. KJ says:

    Some sense to this, only it’s probably not wise to embark on any argument with something the CDC posits. They are the very organisation that is responsible for ensuring – in the name of preventative medicine – that thousands of people have become chronically ill.
    Here’s how you do it.
    Encourage everyone to go to their doctor even when they are well and have no symptoms. Have the doctor perform a barrage of tests. Regularly alter the desirable outcomes (on Big Pharma based studies) so that more and more people – with no symptoms mind you – are considered ‘at risk’. Ensure those people are prescribed medicines (which, uh, have those funny incidentals called ‘side effects’ which are likely to bring them back to the MD’s office) Hey presto, you’ve got a chronically ill person.
    But, yes, I’d love to have an insurance policy and premium that reflect my beliefs and health spending instead of being lumped in with this sort of lemming.

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