As author Sabrina Strings, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at UC Irvine, documents in her book, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, health insurance companies in the early 1900s linked "excessive" body fat with an increased risk of heart disease (and still do, even though current science says it's not that simple). This was significant because insurers could use this information to determine a person’s coverage. Insurers could then refuse to cover the “overweight” while many doctors saw these “medico-actuarial tables” as a quick tool to decide who they’d take on as a patient, according to Strings.
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