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How an overreliance on BMI can stand between patients and treatment

By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

Body Mass Index, a ratio of bodily mass to height, was invented almost two centuries ago by a Belgian mathematician to statistically define the “average man.” How did BMI become a tool of standard practice in diagnostic health? The paradigm of health shifted over time, yet our clinical measures have remained cemented in the past. BMI is not an optimal measurement of health, yet this has not been considered a great enough reason to change standard clinical practice. Individuals suffering from obesity or overweight, or eating disorders, can face financial consequences from this outdated system: Insurance companies may refuse funding or limit treatment options for those who score outside of the “healthy” BMI range. Health experts hope to see updated population-wide weight trends to be implemented in an updated BMI system, one that both accounts for differences among ethnic groups but also distinguishes between muscle and fat tissue. 

by Gabriella Salazar

A wave of anti-vaccine legislation is sweeping the United States

By Dylan Scott, Vox

Despite the deaths of more than 1 million Americans from Covid-19, a demonstrably vaccine-preventable disease, a troubling amount of public opinion is turning away from vaccination. Academics studying anti-vaccine sentiment have identified more than 80 anti-vaccine bills that have been introduced in state legislatures. Childhood vaccinations fell as a result of the pandemic and are not returning to pre-Covid levels, and fewer Americans intend to take the flu shot this year despite predictions of a dire season. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of Americans have taken the newest bivalent Covid booster, which was developed specifically to counter the virus’s evolution, and concerns exist that Covid-vaccine skepticism will spread to other inoculations as well. One vaccine developer, a clinician, laments: ““It’s a level of denialism that’s hard to grasp.”

by Maryn McKenna

State abortion bans are preventing cancer patients from getting chemotherapy

By Shefali Luthra, The 19th

Ohio’s abortion ban, which outlaws the procedure after 6 weeks, forced the suspension of cancer chemotherapy for two patients who were pregnant. Both women were required to travel outside the state to terminate their pregnancies so that they could continue to receive care—in one case, for stage 3 melanoma. The cases, which were described in separate court affidavits, put a face to a phenomenon that advocates and clinicians predicted would come to pass: suspension of women’s healthcare in favor of fetal protection, because laws are harsh or unclear enough to make clinicians feel at risk of prosecution. A physician in a state with a total ban says: “The threshold that I am holding in order to provide abortion care is basically almost dead to try to avoid being arrested and jailed.”

by Maryn McKenna

Items contributed by: Gabriella Salazar, Maryn McKenna