French models will need a doctor's note to hit the catwalk

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health wants to promote healthy body images.

ByABC News
May 9, 2017, 5:04 PM

— -- Models in France will need an unusual accessory to hit the catwalk this fashion week: a doctor's note.

A new decree issued last week by the French Ministry of Social Affairs and Health requires that models have a certificate from their doctors to prove they are in good health.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said in a translated statement that they wanted to promote better attitudes toward body image and prevent anorexia.

According to ministry officials in the statement, their "objective is also to protect the health of a category of the population particularly affected by this risk: models."

"Non-realistic images of the body leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health behaviors," the statement continues.

The decree requires that Body Mass Index (BMI), which has been criticized by some for not fully taking different body types into account, be included in this health assessment. The new decree could mean big changes for the fashion industry as severely underweight models could be banned from working.

Claire Mysko Chief Executive Officer for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) said the group "certainly applauds the spirit behind these measures," but they are concerned that BMI being used as a measure of health status.

"We don't want to reinforce the message that health can be determined by height and weight," Mysko told ABC News. She pointed out she's worked with models who had serious disorders but seemingly "healthy" BMI.

"Their eating disorder would have been missed," she said.

Mysko also clarified that eating disorders are complex, difficult illnesses with multiple facets.

"We think the spirit of it is in the right direction," she said. "We need to continue to let research guide our actions, we don't want to see a good intentioned effort to lead to unintended negative results."

Starting October 1, photographs where a model's body has been digitally altered will need to have the label "retouched photograph." However, this rule only applies to advertisements. Photos used for editorial purposes in magazines or fashion websites, will not be bound by the decree.

Companies that violate the new laws could face fines of of up to 75,000 euros, or $82,000, and face up to six months in jail, according to the BBC.

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