The Case for Waist Circumference as Part of Your Biometric Screening.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a widely used tool as a surrogate measure of body fat in corporate biometric screening programs and other healthcare settings. But when is it not enough?

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BMI is a formula that takes a person's weight in kilograms and divides it by the square of height in meters. It places individuals in underweight (less than 18.5 kg/m2), normal (18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2), overweight (25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2), and obese (30.0 kg/m2 and above) categories. It is simple and non-invasive, making it an excellent tool for an on-site biometric screening.

However, because BMI is essentially a height to weight ratio, very athletic individuals with a higher weight due muscle, not fat, can still present with a non-optimal BMI. This can create a poor participant experience for physically fit individuals who are screened for only BMI and find themselves classified as overweight or obese. It’s especially problematic for companies who have implemented an outcomes-based/results-based wellness incentive program with BMI as a target measure.

Therefore, we generally recommend adding waist circumference measures to your biometric screening program. This screening assesses body fat distribution, as fat around the middle—often described as being “apple shaped”—puts individuals at a higher risk for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. This risk is associated with a waist circumference of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women.

Used together, BMI and waist circumference provide your participants good picture of their current weight status. Companies may opt to apply the results-based wellness incentive to individuals based on BMI or waist circumference, ensuring that athletic individuals are appropriately rewarded for their healthy habits. (Of course, a wellness program vendor that offers a full appeals process to handle biometric screening concerns and reasonable alternatives is a critical piece of any results-based program!)

As always, an on-site biometric screening is just that: a screening. Encourage your participants to take their on-site biometric screening results to their personal healthcare provider and start a discussion on their current health status and health history.

Provant offers multiple biometric screening solutions, as well as a complete and legal appeals process and many communication pieces to advertise and explain your biometric screening offerings. Read more about our corporate biometric screening programs here or contact us today to talk about how we can help your workforce stay healthy and productive with biometric screenings and more.