Health Careers Journal

Proposed Mississipi Bill to Refuse Service to Obese Patrons

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Mississippi House Representative W.T. Mayhall, Jr. introduced a bill during the legislative session on Friday that would ban restaurants from serving obese people in the state of Mississippi. The proposal, Bill 282, would require scales to be placed outside of restaurants and people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 30 would be refused service. Records of customers BMI’s would be kept on file and the restaurants would be tasked with enforcing and complying with the bill or risk loss of their license from the State Department of Health.

While Mr. Mayhall is certain the bill will not pass into law, he along with the bill’s co-writers, Bobby Shows, a businessman and John Read, a pharmacist, believe the situation concerning obesity in Mississippi to be dire. Their intention is to call attention to the increasing epidemic of obesity and the cost to the Medicare system.

Mississippi continually ranks as one of the fattest states in the country by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The state boasted a 31.4 average BMI rate for the year 2006, garnering them the top spot with Alabama in second at 30.5. Mississippi also holds the highest rate of death from cardiovascular disease; a disease with a major risk factor of obesity. See where your state ranks here.

While a BMI of 30 is considered obese, keep in mind that the index does not take into account skeletal frame, musculature or fitness – all factors in determining your overall health with concern to your weight.

Obesity has ranked among top concerns for health professionals and lawmakers alike over the past ten years. We have reached a staggering milestone, six of every ten adults are considered obese in this country. According to the Surgeon General, in 1999 13% of children aged 6 to 11 years were facing weight issues. Approximately 14% of adolescent’s ages 12 to 19 were overweight that same year – a number nearly tripled over the past two decades. The obesity epidemic is not new.

As health care providers we are seeing drastic increases in diseases and conditions strongly linked to obesity. Diabetes is on a sharp rise, primarily in children. Insulin-dependent diabetes is now being seen in obese children, a disease that was solely found in adults a short time ago. Cardiovascular (CV) disease is the leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in our country. Obesity ranks as a top cause of CV disease.

Finding a solution to the problem of obesity in America is proving difficult because the etiology is not fully understood and what can change obesity largely depends on an individual’s choices and choices that families are making together. Education of patients and their families regarding positive health habits should be a primary concern for health care providers regardless of alleged prior knowledge or perceived existence of weight issues. Teaching our patients and their families how to better care for their bodies is of utmost importance and of greater value than judgment and ridicule that proposals like Bill 282 risk perpetuating.


1 Aileen { 02.06.08 at 8:25 pm }

Thanks for that last paragraph, Lara. The face of poverty in this country is obese, telling us something about the kind of foods and diets of those who struggle with “food insecurity.” Blaming the victim won’t help solve the problem. Which, because it disproportionally affects the lower class, can be ignored at will by rich fat people!

2 Lara Alspaugh { 02.07.08 at 1:43 pm }

@ Aileen - Regardless of socioeconomic class (or race, gender or sexual orientation for that matter) all people should be able to receive non-judgemental health care for issues of obesity and beyond. Sadly, that is not always happening. Something to work toward for sure.

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