What is BMI and What are Its Implications for Health & Efficiency at Work?

Monday, September 05, 2016

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a fairly reliable indicator of how much fat a person has on their body and the BMI number is arrived at by calculating a person’s weight-height ratio.

It’s a simple method of checking whether an individual has sufficient excess body fat to increase their risk factors for serious diseases. These are the BMI number categories for all men and women over 20 years of age:

BMI No.              Weight Category

Below 18.5           Underweight
18.5 – 24.9           Normal
25.0 – 29.9           Overweight
30.0 plus              Obese

How does being overweight affect health?

Body weight greatly affects the risk factors for disease and death.  Being underweight is often a symptom of a medical condition and overweight/obese people have an increased risk for many diseases including:

  • Breast, colon and cervical cancer
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High bad LDL cholesterol
  • Low good HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood fats (triglycerides)
  • Sleep apnea, insomnia and breathing problems

How do employers benefit from providing Workplace Health Screening days?

For employers, a healthy workforce is vital to maintain maximum productivity and prevent expensive absenteeism related to poor health.  BMI is an extremely useful screening tool to identify people with an elevated risk of ill-health and those whose job performance is already being affected by symptoms related to any of the above conditions.  

Studies have proved that those employees who come into work with even minor medical symptoms do not perform as well as healthy colleagues.

Workplace screening allows you to identify employees with a high BMI, high cholesterol or high blood pressure caused by job stress, who can then get treatment from their doctor.  Risk factors are closely linked to diet, physical activity and family history and there is a lot an individual can do to bring down their risk factors.

Health education and stress reduction

If you use Workplace Health Screening days as a part of your drive towards good ergonomic conditions and high productivity, you can include useful health education sessions.  Many people are still unaware of the need to eat a balanced diet and healthy eating advice is always well received by employees when they realise how much it can improve their health.  

Furthermore, it’s a good opportunity to address the major problem of work-related stress, which causes a loss of approximately $14 million to the Australian economy each year.  An ergonomics consultancy will provide confidential stress counselling sessions and treatments if required.  When employers are willing to change the conditions that cause work-related stress, they can transform the working atmosphere of a factory, office, restaurant or hair salon from slow and apathetic to highly motivated and productive.

Staff retention

There’s no doubt that employer led health initiatives are an excellent way to increase morale and job satisfaction.  Employees appreciate the convenience of being able to check their health at work and view it as an indication that they are valued members of the workforce.  Employers who provide this service have higher rates of staff retention and much lower rates of absenteeism.

The cost of checking BMI’s and other simple tests is always far outweighed by the gains in job performance and increased productivity. All types of business can benefit from bringing in an ergonomics consultant - because preventative medicine is an excellent way to keep your workforce healthy and increase  productivity.

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