The body mass index, a simple ratio of height and weight, is widely used to measure and track obesity rates. But we understand that there are limits to its usefulness, particularly in assessing individual health, and we know that wide overreliance on this measure has caused harm. Read more from Jennie Day-Burget, senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
What is Obesity?
Having a body weight that is higher than what is considered healthy for a given height is described as overweight or obesity. There are many methods of measuring this, some of which are expensive and time consuming. BMI, which is inexpensive and easy to calculate, is typically used as a proxy. Health officials recommend that individual health assessments should consider other factors as well. Research has demonstrated that a high BMI is strongly correlated with negative health consequences, although the association between BMI does vary among ethnic groups.
BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared. For measurements in pounds and inches, BMI is calculated using the following formula: