CDC Obesity Cost Calculator Comes Under Fire
I would like to begin by conceding the obvious. Among other things, obesity is an economic burden that cost the global economy about as much as smoking and military conflict. Annually, the global bill for lost productivity and the treatment of obesity related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers is about 2 trillion dollars. The global cost for smoking, war, and general conflicts is 2.1 trillion dollars.
However, we continue to eat high-calorie foods. We continue to lead sedentary lifestyles where we sit all day in front of computer screen in the workplace, in front of a television screen all through the evening, and put as much distance between ourselves and exercise as we can muster. Childhood obesity has become epidemic and many countries even have obesity and under-nutrition as co-existing conditions.
We suffer the effects of our poor habits both at home and in the workplace. The Center for Disease Control took note of the situation and decided to make a bad decision.
The CDC webpage has been taken down owing to concerns the Obesity Cost Calculator may have been to discriminate in the workplace.
The Obesity Cost Calculator
The Obesity Cost Calculator Worksheet was used to collect information to determine how many dollars obesity is costing an organization. If some of the data required for the worksheet is unavailable to the employer, the Obesity Cost Calculator provides default values from nationally representative databases. The cost of obesity should be calculated before determining returns on the investment.
Calculations were based on budgeted costs for an intervention, anticipated participation rates, co-payments made by employees, work days missed per year, and the expected weight loss of employees.
After that, it was easy. Just add it up, analyze the numbers, and the final result is fat-shaming and discrimination. A CDC spokesperson has said it was never the intention to promote discriminatory behaviors and that the Obesity Cost Calculator has never been used to target overweight workers to their knowledge.
Still in all, the LEAN Works website has been taken down.
Following complaints that the calculator promoted workplace discrimination and perhps even some terminations, the site has been pulled down. As well, the content posted on LEAN Works and the obesity cost calculator are under review.
Joanne P. Ikeda, nutritionist emeritus at the University of California, noted that body size is not under the protection of Civil Rights Laws and that employees could be fired despite outstanding performances if they were overweight.
Ikeda also pointed out that although the service was supposedly meant to help companies provide support for people who are overweight, she was concerned that it was nothing more than a tool to identify employees for termination.
Jennifer Shinall, assistant professor of law at Vanderbilt, maintains that workplace discrimination against overweight people is not motivated by costs that might be attributed to heavier employees, but by personal distaste that some supervisors might have against such people.
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