Benjamin qualified and healthy

Published 7:05 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

She’s a MacArthur Grant genius, has worked to give health care access to the poor and set up a clinic after Hurricane Katrina to give some semblance of order to a devastated area.

She’s Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, 52, the founder and CEO of Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic and Obama’s pick for the next surgeon general.

Now critics have slammed her for being chunky — a full-figured woman in a nation where 34 percent of all Americans 20 and older are fat. Some bloggers have gone so far as to speculate what size clothing she wears and how much overweight she is.

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This is ridiculous.

Certainly, Benjamin is up for surgeon general and she should have a certain ability about her. She is, from all accounts, a highly qualified physician. She has provided care for patients in the worst and best of circumstances. She advocates for splitting that gap that separates the poor from quality medical care, something people especially in this part of Alabama know too well.

But Benjamin is not grossly overweight. And perhaps her position as surgeon general will help some stop assuming that all fat people are unhealthy.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has data that show more than half of people labeled overweight are metabolically healthy, compared to about a quarter who are what the survey calls “metabolically abnormal.”

The study points out that examination of metabolic health — blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels — are better predictors for future health problems.

Benjamin is qualified to become surgeon general. Talk about her weight reflects American bias toward svelte female figures, which carries its own set of eating disorders.