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Research

Measurement Issues

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Measurement issues for people with mobility impairments present significant challenges in efforts to research and set clinical guidelines for weight management in this population.

Even the basic measurement of weight itself can be problematic for women with severe mobility limitations who are unable to use standard weight scales, which are unable to accommodate wheelchairs or other assistive devices.

Body Mass Index, a calculation which requires accurate weight and height measurements, is one of the most widely used measures to determine whether or not an individual is overweight. However, this measure fails to consider factors such as muscle atrophy or limb loss, or difficulties in obtaining height measurements for people who have limb contractures or severe scoliosis. Self-reported weight and height measurements, often used to calculate BMI in research of people with disabilities, may be flawed.

These very basic challenges make it more difficult for researchers, physicians, and other health care professionals to identify women with disabilities who are overweight.

Such measurement issues also make weight management efforts more difficult. Although a variety of wheelchair scales are manufactured, these scales are rarely available in doctor's offices or health clinics. Women who are unable to stand on a standard scale may not have regular access to a scale that will accommodate their wheelchairs, and they often do not have the ability to measure their progress towards their weight loss goals.