Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Quick hit: BMI a factor in refusing residency

Idiot Savant noticed this in today's Herald and emailed it through. Basically an American couple have been refused residency in NZ mainly because of the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the wife, who weighs 135kg:
While the unnamed couple did not have job offers and indeed had no connection with the country, they scored well on other aspects of their application.

The husband was a butcher with an Arts degree and culinary qualification, and the wife who had business qualifications also had 17 year's experience in design.

INZ concluded that although the couple "had the potential to have a relatively significant contribution to New Zealand through their skills and experience, it was not compelling enough to outweigh the potential cost (the wife) was likely to impose on the NZ health service", the board said.
Ye gads, I hope no one ever calculates my potential cost to the health system to establish where I get to live!


Anonymous said...

Sadly, I had to have rather invasive surgery (removed the lymph nodes around my heart laporoscopically to prove I didn't have TB or lymphoma even though all other tests were negative)in order to obtain my skilled migrant visa - I think this sort of thing happens more than we realize.

My visa runs out in a year and I shudder to think what will be asked of me when I apply for resident status.

Anonymous said...

Anon, that is insane! What is wrong with an x-ray??

(When I was teaching in Japan I had to get an x-ray each year to check for TB.)

In our experience the health check for PR is the same as for the working visa.

As far as I understand the Department has discretion when it comes to the partner/dependent/parent etc of someone with a visa. Even if that person has ongoing health issues it can be all good as long as they have health insurance.


Anonymous said...

I am totally against the concept of weight/appearance based discrimination, as I'm sure many feminists would be. BUT in this case, I can see where Immigration New Zealand is coming from. If you totally disregard the woman's BMI (as it is actually a highly inaccurate way of measuring whether or not a person is in a healthy weight range anyway) she is STILL 135kg and has DIABETES! Besides these facts, there are probably several more considerations that were made, and criteria the woman had to meet (and didn't), that we aren’t even privy to.

I really hope that this post on the Hand Mirror isn't simply a reaction to the injustice of calling a woman 'fat'. I know it is the job of the Hand Mirror to present a feminist perspective on issues, but to suggest that this woman was denied entrance into New Zealand because she is 'fat' and 'ugly', and that the judging by others (Immigration Department officials) of her 'fatness' and 'ugliness', was the ultimate reason she was not selected, may be going too far?

This having been said, I would very much like to know how many other immigrants have failed to meet the criteria for entrance into NZ because they are morbidly obese, with diabetes? Or is this case a precedent?

Giovanni said...

Nothing special about using the BMI, all it means is that the principle of judging potential immigrants on the basis of the cost they might represent for the local health system is still firmly in place. So long as we discriminate people in that way - which I find outrageous - the particular discriminant chosen (AIDS, TB, morbid obesity) seem irrelevant.

Cat said...

My partner is not a small lad, and a couple of years ago he went through the Permanent Residency application process. He had to have the usual battery of health checks, including tests for 'how fat are you, really' and an xray for TB (not surgery! surely that's not a common thing)..

Anyway they take a range of factors into account, including existing conditions like diabetes. If you have a lot of people applying and only limited places, you need to have criteria, and someone who doesn't have a chronic disease would, in my opinion, be placed higher in the queue than someone who needs ongoing medical treatment..

And like someone else said, all we know of the story is what the media reported.

sophie said...

I did the working visa medical then applied for residency before it expired (1 year after date of medical) - used the same medical for both applications.

That's nearly ten years ago now. Discrimimation is/was fact as far as gaining residency status went. Age, education, health, skills, family members, work experience, police record, cash - it all weighs in the balance.
In the optimum age group with a BSc, three years work experience and filling a needed skills shortage, I only *just* got enough points. One issue in my case was that work experience under the age of 20 didn't count.

It was a long drawn-out process blighted by human error on several occasions.

Danielle said...

My husband has fairly mild (as much as anything chronic can be) type two diabetes and is also a member of what we both call 'The Squat'. He managed to get residency anyway in 2002 (probably based on my being a NZ citizen and marrying him before we arrived), but it was a lengthy, judgey, horrible process and it made me feel awful for him.

Ironically, he has probably been FAR less of 'a cost to the health system' in nearly seven years than most of my supposedly 'healthy' NZ family. Does his exercise, eats his food, takes his meds, has his checkups, pays his taxes. I just don't think there should be some kind of hard and fast rule about these things...

Lucy said...

This reminds me of a similar kerfuffle about a British couple last year - the wife was morbidly obese and was denied a visa, and the husband (who had already immigrated) was very upset about it. And there was also an American woman last year who lost her final appeal for residency, but wanted to stay because she either couldn't get or wouldn't have insurance for an ongoing condition if she went back to the States. So this sort of thing is hardly unusual.

I'm of two minds here. While I don't like the discrimination, the thing is that we discriminate on a *lot* of bases when deciding who can move here permanently. Health is just one factor. Unless we're going to have an open immigration policy, then it's no more unfair than discriminating on the basis of skills, relatives, or money.

On the other hand, I had a friend who immigrated here as a teenager with his parents. He had an autoimmune disease which required shots every three weeks to keep him alive; he got cancer at twenty-one, and died, after a year of intensive medical treatment. He must have cost the health system a great deal; and they would have known that this was likely when they let him in, given his condition. In fact, I think I heard it mentioned that they'd been denied entry to Canada, where they'd initially tried to immigrate, for this reason. But we let him in. So - it's not as if you can only come in to NZ if you're in peak health. I'd be interested in knowing exactly what the criteria are.

Danielle said...

The thing that gets on my tits, though, Lucy, is this automatic fat = unhealthy equation (and its inverse - or is that converse? I always get those two mixed up - that thin = healthy). You just can't tell how healthy a person is by using BMI, and I really hope the NZIS uses a lot of other factors to come to their conclusions about residency, because otherwise they're just being discriminat*ory* rather than discriminat*ing*.

Giovanni said...

136kg with diabetes is probably in the realm of discriminat*ing*. The same applies to the story in the papers last year, and statistics in support of the cost for the health system of people in that weight range are I think well supported. I happen to have a problem with discriminating people on the basis of health, but I suppose it's marginally better than Prebble's suggestion we should go by skin colour.

Danielle said...

I happen to have a problem with discriminating people on the basis of health

I think we had this discussion at some point on System, and I think I remember you basically won me over on this point! (What is the 'value' of a person in our society anyway, etc.) But we are probably alone because everyone else is all, like, *practical* and shit. :)

Giovanni said...

I don't know about here, but in Italy it was done by stealth, starting with TB - an endemic infectious disease, therefore an issue of protecting the collectivity. But then it moved on to diseases were all we are protecting is our collective wallet.

(Speaking of the TB tests, which are still regularly administered fifty or so years after we beat the disease, I was looking after a severely retarded guy during my last year in Italy and discovered at one point that he was going down to a clinic every week to have chest x-ray done for TB. He was doing it purely for the company, and by law they are free and not requiring of a doctor's referral, but of course the clinic would have asked for a refund from the health system. So they were basically radiation-poisoning this guy on a weekly basis for money. When I confronted them about it, they retorted that by law they were obliged to give him the X-ray. Never lost my rag so much as I did that day).

Lucy said...

The thing that gets on my tits, though, Lucy, is this automatic fat = unhealthy equation (and its inverse - or is that converse? I always get those two mixed up - that thin = healthy). You just can't tell how healthy a person is by using BMI, and I really hope the NZIS uses a lot of other factors to come to their conclusions about residency, because otherwise they're just being discriminat*ory* rather than discriminat*ing*.

Oh, totally - and while I'm willing to accept a health barrier, it needs to be based on *actual health*, rather than "one measure of health better applied to a population than an individual". I'd want them to look at doctors' reports, not just one number. And put against all the other benefits of having the person here, obviously. Health should be the factor you look at *after* all the others, not the first.

Funnily enough, though, I am very strongly against refusing people residency for conditions that they may not get proper treatment for in their own country, all other considerations being equal. I'm not sure how this meshes with accepting a health test, or even if it does.

Maia said...

There's quite a lot of levels at which I disagree this. I believe in open borders, don't believe in discriminating on the status of health or treating health as a moral issue, and think the BMI is a completely useless measure of health.

WhiteCrowUK said...

Interesting to read this - today I had my visa rejected - my BMI is currently 35.37, but I've been told it need to be below 35.0 before I can get one. So that's me sold up the house, left my job to be stuck in the lurch.

I have spot on blood pressure, no diabetes, my fat levels in my blood stream are spot on. Heck I got a letter to say I go the gym 200 times a year.

Still not healthy enough by all accounts.