Opinion | Letters to the Editor

Letter to the editor: BC Health Services does not mandate diabetes screening

To the Editor: 

We at the Primary Care Health Service of Barnard College were quite concerned over some of the statements made in a recent op-ed (“Body shaming at Barnard’s Health Services needs to stop,” March 31) by Paulina Pinsky.

The health and well-being of Barnard students is the utmost priority in all that we do. It is always our goal to ensure that our patients are treated respectfully and receive thorough and appropriate care and information. For this reason, it is essential that we correct misinformation in a quote that might discourage students from seeking out the care that they need. In the op-ed, Pinsky quotes a nurse as saying, “We have a new policy that states that if your BMI is overweight, you have to be tested for diabetes.” While we were not present at this conversation and cannot dispute whether or not this was said, this is false. Primary Care Health Service does not have a mandatory diabetes screening policy. Moreover, we would not simply offer a screening based on Body Mass Index alone.

We understand that body weight can be an extremely sensitive issue for many people, so patients always have the right to refuse having this measurement taken. However, BMI is a standard method of assessing weight for height and is one among many risk factors used in determining whether or not a patient should be screened for diabetes. It is a recognized measurement—like blood pressure—to evaluate the health of a patient, and it is sanctioned as such in guidelines published by the American Diabetes Association, the Centers for Disease Control and many other nationally accredited health organizations.

For the past seven years, we have been surveying our patients about the care they received at Primary Care Health Service. The topic of BMI measurement has never been mentioned. We welcome and encourage feedback from our patients in a constructive way to continue improving our services. Our mission at Primary Care Health Service is always to provide comprehensive, current health care for all of our patients in a safe and respectful environment.

Mary Joan Murphy, N.P., Executive Director            
Marjorie Seidenfeld, M.D., Medical Director
Primary Care Health Service, Barnard College
April 2, 2014


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BC '14 posted on

I appreciate this. It's very informative about some of the factual information behind the issue, which is essential if we're going to discuss it clearly. When I read the original op-ed, I was really sympathetic to the painful feelings some students had clearly experienced around going to health services. The medical community definitely does mistreat people whose BMIs fall into the "overweight" or "obese" categories. That said, I was also confused and curious, because the article did not tally at all with my four years of experience with the health services staff – I've found them sensitive and professional at all times. Still, it's really important to remember that people can and do have negative experiences with health care practitioners, even if they have the best of intentions.

For this reason, I think it's really important to remind people that there are ways other than the internet for dissatisfied students to give feedback with our student services. People I know have gone directly to health services to voice concern about an experience they had there, and have always felt listened to. For students who don't feel comfortable doing that, Well-Woman in 119 Reid has an awesome staff director and student peer educators who are always willing to discuss ways that Barnard could improve wellness in our community! One of the main things I've learned in my time here is that no Barnard office is perfect, but for the most part they really do want to help us.