Health screenings could hurt more than help

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

Last week, Baylor offered health screenings on campus through Cigna Health Benefits, where students could receive breakdowns of their general health and statistical analyses of where they land on growth scales and various health spectrums. These are supposed to be increasing access to healthcare for students who may not be able to afford it otherwise, and they can offer valuable insight into the functioning of a student’s body. However, they are also subject to a multitude of outside factors that could skew screenings and put unnecessary stress on a student.

According to Cigna’s website, its screening offers “a personal report that highlights areas of strength and areas in need of improvement. The report includes an overall score as well as scores for each section, along with easy-to-understand next steps for health improvement.” These breakdowns include information on blood pressure, chemical balances and body mass/weight scales.

However, in order to get accurate results, medical professionals at the booth recommended you fast before your screening. For many students simply passing by on their way to class who might be interested in a screening, this isn’t possible, and getting your screening without fasting could mean receiving skewed results. Heightened levels of triglycerides and higher blood sugar are just two common changes seen when students eat prior to their health screening.

Without the medical professional taking the student’s stomach contents into account, these symptoms could present as a more serious issue than their reality. Although not common, false positives do happen — that is why it is important for students to get regular health checks, so that whatever anomalies are taken into account during the free health screening can be verified or denied through consistent check ups.

Another area where health screenings may not be the most efficient is in the area of body mass measurement and weight analysis. In a culture where health and wellbeing sometimes fall to the wayside, college students can struggle to maintain a “healthy” body proportion, as defined by the Center for Disease Control’s Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI has been around for years and determines your body mass by the ratio of fat to muscle in your body. The language used in the BMI has been criticized before for being too harsh, including the titles “overweight” and “obese” for too great a margin of people.

While the results do indicate health benefits or issues fairly accurately in proportion to your BMI, the language used could be damaging to a student struggling to eat healthy, exercise regularly or who has preexisting body image issues. Students have enough on their plates as it is, being labeled overweight or obese based on a mathematical formula could send someone already on the edge into a spiral. It’s important that students check in with a health professional consistently so that they have a clearer understanding of the risk factors surrounding their BMI, and how much they truly need to worry about their weight.

While free health screenings offer a quick and easy assessment for busy students, the infrequency of the health screenings combined with possibly inconsistent or inaccurate results definitely needs to be addressed. Baylor offers many options for health and wellness exams, so instead of relying solely on infrequent health screenings, if students are concerned about their health, they should take advantage of the Baylor health center’s options on a more regular basis. Take the time to set up an appointment in advance and get a check-up to stay healthy.