The mad ramblings of a scientist
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Good bye, BMI?

I am fortunate to have, what I believe, is a very good doctor. So I was a little surprised some time ago to notice while waiting in her office (visits often involved a great deal of waiting) a posting of the Body Mass Index, or BMI, on the wall. I was even more shocked to find out that the BMI was incorporated into the clinic's electronic record keeping. The final blow came when the Doctor herself looked up my weight and height and issued a diagnosis to me in person.

The BMI originates from a statistical analysis performed almost 200 years ago (according to Jeremy Singer-Vine from the Slate) and updated in 1972 by a researcher named Ancel Keys. Keys wisely cautioned against using the results for individual diagnosis. So I supposed he was probably dismayed when the BMI started getting used for just this exact purpose by doctors everywhere.

So why use a flawed diagnostic like the BMI at all? Because it is cheap and easy, and the insurance industry will use any information that is cheap and easy, no matter how inaccurate. And once a practice gets ingrained in medicine, no matter how ill advised, it seems to stick around forever.

The good news is that there is growing evidence that using a combination of waist size and height can be turned into a useful index for individuals, and since waist size is almost as easy to measure as weight, perhaps we can finally say goodbye to the BMI.

Posted at: 9:49 PM
Categories: Biotechnology

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What is more important than the health of our children?

Nothing, most people would say. A notable exception is the president, who wants to prevent states from expanding public spending on child health insurance. I guess the president is more worried about insurance company profits than poor children. After all, poor children don't vote.

Posted at: 8:09 PM
Categories: Biotechnology, Diary

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One in ten

One in ten children are uninsured in this country, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Where is the outrage?

Posted at: 10:39 PM
Categories: Biotechnology

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Breakthrough in genetics

Here is a pretty neat advancement in genetics pointed out by slashdot (The Independent deserves credit for writing an excellent article). Apparently several important genes are duplicated several times in human DNA, and that variations in the number of these copies not only results in greater genetic diversity than originally believed in humans but can also have important health consequences.

Posted at: 12:23 AM
Categories: Biotechnology

Friday, July 21, 2006

Administration's research priorities for 2008

Here is an interesting tidbit, reported by FYI: the administration's research and development priorities for the 2008 fiscal year. Emphasis is placed on six broad subjects: homeland security, energy security, advanced networking and high-end computing, nano-technology, complex biological systems, and the environment.

Posted at: 10:05 PM
Categories: Biotechnology, Physics in the news