Designing an Effective Workplace Strategy to Manage Obesity

by Robert on August 14, 2012

It’s summertime, and the eating is easy: A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention found that 74 percent of the adult population in the U.S. is either overweight (body mass index of 25 to 29.99) or obese (BMI of 30 or greater).

This has serious health implications for individuals, of course, and is also a huge factor in the growing cost of health care. The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that obesity accounts for almost $170 billion—or 16.5 percent—of spending on medical care for the U.S. adult noninstitutionalized population.

Why should employers care?

Addressing the Obesity Crisis

First, being above normal in weight is a big contributing factor in the development of certain conditions and diseases—and it can make those conditions and diseases more severe, higher risk and higher cost.

Second, the impact of being overweight or obese carries into the workplace in terms of productivity, fitness to work, and absenteeism due to illnesses related to weight.

Dr. Ian Chuang, medical director for the Lockton Benefits Group, recently published an excellent white paper entitled The Obesity Crisis and Its Management Options. In it, he contends that the trend toward unhealthy weight levels across the population can be reversed, but it takes “a multifactorial approach … by individuals, employers, communities, schools, the media and other sources of lifestyle support and interaction. … Action must take place at all levels to improve the population weight in a sustained manner. This includes action within the workplace.”

Comprehensive Health Risk Management

At Lockton, we frequently work with a client to develop a comprehensive health risk management strategy that focuses, first, on developing programs and services that promote healthy choices and behaviors. “Every employer can make an impact by ensuring a culture of health and taking the steps to establish policies and amenities that are conducive for employees to make healthy choices while at work,” says Chuang.

Some of the examples he cites—healthy vending-machine selections, physical activity breaks, establishing a smoke-free workplace policy, healthy food choices in the cafeteria—represent small changes in the workplace environment, but they can have a big impact on promoting positive behaviors and preventing obesity.

Prevention of obesity and medically supervised weight loss are the recommended first-line treatments for excess weight. Other options include behavior modification therapy, medications or, for severe obesity and some overweight patients with chronic conditions, bariatric surgery.

Free White Paper Download 

At Lockton, we focus on working with our clients to design an effective strategy that includes the features that will work best for them and their workforce in addressing the growing obesity epidemic. Use this link to download a free copy of Chuang’s white paper: The Obesity Crisis & Its Management Options, and use the the email sign up box above to receive blog updates two to three times a month. If you would like to learn more about how Lockton can help your organization develop a plan to address this significant health risk, please contact me at rruotolo@lockton.com.

 

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