Patient Understanding of Body Mass Index (BMI) in Primary Care Practices: A Two-State Practice-based Research (PBR) Collaboration

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Background—The concept of body mass index (BMI) may not be well understood by patients. The purpose of this study was to evaluate patients’ knowledge of BMI in the primary care setting. Methods—Adult patients seen in 18 practices in West Virginia and New Jersey were invited to complete a voluntary survey. The survey assessed the patient’s baseline knowledge of BMI as well as demographic information and whether the patient had known chronic conditions associated with increased BMI, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, and sleep apnea. Results—While the majority (59.9%) of primary care patients knew the meaning of BMI and that it is related to obesity, there was little knowledge of BMI cutoff values; more than 80% of responses were incorrect when asked to define specific BMI levels and their meaning. Selfawareness of obesity was limited as well, with only 16.4% aware of their own personal BMI. Furthermore, nearly 70% of patients could not recall having discussed BMI with their physician. Conclusion—Findings indicate low comprehension of the term BMI. Increasing awareness of BMI may help patients address this key risk factor and significantly affect public health.