Obesity is a growing problem both nationally and internationally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 34.9% of US adults can be considered obese. The most common screening tool being used today to determine obesity levels is the Body Mass Index (BMI). A persons BMI is calculated by a mathematical formula using the person’s height and weight. Once the BMI is calculated it is compared to a BMI chart to determine what weight range the person falls in. According to the CDC BMI ranges are:

BMI less than 18.5-considered in the underweight range

BMI 18.5-24.9-considered normal weight range

BMI 25.0-29.9-considered overweight range

BMI 30.0 or greater-obese range.

BMI score cannot be used to definitively determine the health of a person. Healthcare providers must take into consideration other assessments prior to determining a person’s health status.

Unfortunately, obesity is associated with increased health risks. The problems can be related to the increased wear and tear on the joints as in osteoarthritis, as well as problems related to the cardiovascular system (high blood pressure and plaque build up within the heart’s blood vessels). The list of associated health risks includes:


  • Type 2 Diabetes (stress on the insides of the body’s cells, with increased risk of high concentrations of blood sugars)
  • Metabolic Syndrome (as in large waistline, high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugars – with increased risk of heart disease and stroke)
  • Osteoarthritis (increased stress on joints as in knees, hips and lower back with increased risk of pain)
  • High Blood Pressure (increased force against the blood vessels and associated with being overweight or obese)
  • Cardiovascular Disease including heart failure (reduced blood flow to the heart’s blood vessels related to plaque)
  • Stroke (related to above mentioned plaque, causing blood clots; if clot in the brain can cause a stroke)
  • Respiratory Compromise (related to increased fat stores around neck, can cause apnea or breath pauses as well as poor respirations with related health problems)
  • Reproductive problems (related to infertility and early and late miscarriage)
  • Cancer (increased risk of colon, breast and gallbladder cancers)
  • Dementia (increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Mental Illness (increased risk of situational depression)


For the legal nurse, the review of the chart notes always includes a thorough review of the patient’s pre existing condition as in elevated BMI and obesity. Unfortunately, with the large amount of associated health risks, it is therefore important to determine if obesity played a role in their claimed injuries. This can include

Gallagher-Camden, S. (2009), Obesity: an emerging concern for patients and nurses, The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol142009/No1Jan09/Obesity-An-Emerging-Concern.aspx

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, Adult Obesity Facts (9/21/2015) retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity, (4/27/2012) Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html