FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 7, 2022
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Good Housekeeping and Prevention to Remove Body Mass Index (BMI) as a Metric for Health in Reporting Across All Platforms
Color Of Change partnered with Hearst Magazines’ Good Housekeeping and Prevention to raise awareness of the dangers of relying on BMI and to encourage audiences to focus on more nuanced health assessments.
NEW YORK, June 7, 2022 — Good Housekeeping and Prevention announced today that they will no longer use body mass index (BMI) as an indication of health in their coverage. The two brands partnered with Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, to raise awareness of the harmful ways in which BMI is applied and to encourage the use of less stigmatizing and more reliable ways of measuring overall well-being.
The factors behind the decision to move away from BMI are detailed in recent articles published in Good Housekeeping and Prevention. The new editorial policy will “avoid relying on BMI as a marker of health in reporting” and, if necessary, will point out its extensive limitations. With a combined readership of 67 million, Good Housekeeping and Prevention aim to spark the conversations necessary to end the use of potentially harmful medical metrics. As an alternative to BMI, the publications encourage their readers to request that their health care providers “avoid weight conversations and instead order blood work to focus on [their] personal health markers.”
In the Good Housekeeping and Prevention articles, experts further explain why BMI is a misleading predictor of health. Despite its prevalence in health and medical discourse, BMI is not rooted in medicine. Originated by a Belgian statistician in 1832, the metric began as a height-to-weight ratio to identify average size in a sample group of white men. It was never intended to measure the health of an individual. The popularity of BMI as a “medical” indicator did not surge until the 1970s, when insurance companies adopted BMI as a significant determinant of coverage.
“We have come to realize that the overreliance on this simplistic measure is not serving anyone well,” says Jane Francisco, editorial director of the Hearst Lifestyle Group and editor in chief of Good Housekeeping. “Given the size, scope, and diversity of the Prevention and Good Housekeeping audiences, we have a responsibility to provide accurate and nuanced health information so each reader can best care for their own physical and emotional well-being.”
The push to standardize health metrics led to the widespread use of BMI as a medical measurement—often causing shame for patients; restricting access to specific, tailored care; and ultimately contributing to poorer health outcomes.
The overemphasis of BMI can also paint a misleading picture when it comes to other groups, such as older people, certain ethnic groups, and athletes. “Researchers estimated that nearly 75 million adults in the U.S. have their health misclassified on the basis of BMI,” Paula Brochu, Ph.D., a weight stigma researcher, told Good Housekeeping. This includes people with a “healthy” BMI who have undiscovered health risks as well as those classified as “overweight” who are metabolically healthy.
Magazines, journals, and other published materials have reinforced BMI’s “legitimacy” through its inclusion in medical discourse and reporting, as well as general health and wellness stories for a variety of audiences. The change in editorial policy for two widely read Hearst brands is an important step toward combating the life-threatening impacts of medical racism. This is an opportunity for millions of readers to advocate for themselves in the doctor’s office, push back on racist and fatphobic narratives of health, and seek truly inclusive care. Color Of Change believes Black people deserve affirming medical care, thoughtful health resources and access to real diagnoses, not dismissals of their concerns or misleading information based in racist pseudoscience.
“Institutions and doctors use BMI as an excuse to deny Black patients the medical care we deserve,” said Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, senior director of campaigns at Color Of Change. “Like many of the factors that contribute to the alarming racial health disparity in the U.S., Black people have been disproportionately impacted by the limitations and harms of BMI — including being shut out from fertility treatments, gender affirming surgery, organ transplants, and other life-altering medical attention. We applaud Good Housekeeping and Prevention for demonstrating to their readers and to the entire publishing industry that quality health reporting should not include racist metrics. As Color Of Change works to end the ways weight bias harms Black people, media companies have an important role to publish accurate health information.”
Across the country, multiple studies have shown that Black women are more likely to experience substandard levels of medical care and attention than women from other ethnic groups. BMI, weight stigma, and unaddressed medical inequities are some of the factors responsible for this kind of inadequate care. Over the past year, Color Of Change has campaigned against the use of BMI as a reliable indicator for health and pushed for the removal of BMI ranges as an eligibility requirement for health services, and now it has coordinated an extensive change in health narratives in media, following the lead of Good Housekeeping and Prevention.
About Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping (GoodHousekeeping.com) is one of the world’s leading lifestyle media brands, with a monthly audience of 47+ million readers, and it delivers an inspiring variety of genius home solutions, delicious recipes, expert beauty advice, and compelling personal perspectives—GH counts Virginia Woolf, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Friedan, and Oprah Winfrey among its contributors. Founded in 1885, Good Housekeeping puts consumer advocacy at the core of the brand, having banned cigarette advertising 12 years before the before the Surgeon General’s warning on the health hazards of smoking. Staffed by top engineers, scientists, and technology analysts, the GH Institute tests and evaluates thousands of products each year in its state-of-the-art labs for audiences across all platforms. The Good Housekeeping Seal, introduced in 1909, is one of the most recognized consumer emblems in America and represents Good Housekeeping’s commitment to performance and safety. Follow Good Housekeeping on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest and on the Inside the Institute blog.
The ultimate live-better handbook, Prevention is a trusted go-to guide that motivates readers to feel their best from head to toe, inside and out. For more than 70 years, Prevention has been a dominant thought leader in the health and wellness space, delivering authoritative information, expert advice, and fresh and surprising healthy-living tips to millions of monthly readers via print publications, digital platforms, and events.
About Color Of Change
Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, helping people respond effectively to injustice in the world around them. As a national online force driven by over 7 million members, it moves decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America. Visit ColorOfChange.org.
About Hearst Magazines
Hearst Magazines’ portfolio of more than 25 powerful brands in the U.S. inspires and entertains audiences across all media platforms. Hearst Magazines’ print and digital assets reach nearly 157.4 million readers and site visitors each month—60% of all millennials and 52% of all those in Gen Z over the age of 18 (Source: 2021 comScore Multi-Platform © MRI-Simmons (11-21/F21). The company publishes nearly 260 magazine editions and 200 websites around the world.