March 31, 2020

Obesity According to Official Mexican Standards


On March 24, 2020, the Mexican Department of Health published a decree setting forth the preventive measures to be implemented to mitigate and control health risks relating to COVID-19, (the “Decree”). The Decree states that obese persons should avoid going to the workplace.

Obesity constitutes a chronic pathology characterized by an increase in adipose tissue, which puts someone at risk not only of a higher mortality rate, but also of a higher rate of comorbidity. Such risks correlate to the severity of a person’s obesity (the higher the Body Mass Index “BMI”, the more complications are likely). Although the World Health Organization “WHO” defines obesity as a risk factor, obesity is identified as an illness in Official Mexican Standard NOM-008-SSA3-2017.

The BMI is calculated pursuant to the following formula: Kg / Mts2, where Kg is the adult’s weight in kilograms, which is divided by Mts2, which is the person’s height in meters squared. The WHO recognizes the following four classes of obesity:

  • BMI < 18.5 = Underweight
  • BMI 18.5 – 24.9 = Normal weight
  • BMI 25.0 – 29.9 = Overweight
  • BMI ≥ 30 = Obese
  • BMI ≥ 30 -34.9 = Class 1 obesity
  • BMI ≥ 35 -39.9 = Class 2 obesity
  • BMI ≥ 40 = Class 3 obesity

The Decree simply mentions “obesity”, which strictly speaking, means that someone with a BMI of 30 or more is considered to suffer from obesity. However, we have not found any indication from the WHO that all levels of obesity correlate to a higher risk in relation to COVID-19.

For reference, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) states the following: “People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk.” Such information can be found in the following link:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/people-at-higher-risk.html

While the meaning of obesity as used in the Decree is pending clarification, based on the foregoing, it is important for employers to determine which employees are considered obese from a clinical standpoint. For those who are considered to be obese, employers should determine whether the employees fall within the level of obesity that the CDC considers to be at-risk.