Whose Health Is It Anyway?

The Marmot in My Head

Is your health a number? Is it a feeling? Do you even get to decide if you’re healthy? When I’m at work, health is all numbers. At home, it’s just a general sense of being healthy. That sense of general health matters more, not just to me, but to predicting future health, or lack thereof. But the numbers are just too easy. They give answers, specific imperfect answers.

The numbers, health through your physician’s eyes, — blood pressure, cholesterol, range of motion, memory score, etc. — are just simplified measures of some narrow trait. I am not a physician. I am a mere statistician*, sitting near/beside the people who really address health. I do deal with health-as-numbers, but not in the same way.

One such number bugs me. In the early to mid 1800s, Adolphe Quetelet proposed a measure of weight adjusted for height, the Body Mass Index (BMI). A…

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