Businesses can no longer afford to ignore the growing obesity epidemic. The costs of obesity in the workplace include absenteeism, low productivity and high turnover rates. The Reality Coalition, a group of experts on obesity, nutrition, diabetes and health care policy, recently met with business leaders, health care industry professionals and policymakers to discuss the burden of overweight and obesity on the nation’s employers.
“More than 100 million American adults spend a majority of their day at work, making the worksite an ideal place to begin the process of tackling the obesity epidemic,” said U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD. “Weight management counseling, onsite exercise facilities and healthier food choices are just a few of the ways that companies of all sizes help their employees adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors.”
Results from a new online survey of 500 members of the Synovate Global Opinion Panel who are overweight and work full-time outside of the home reinforced the need for employer-sponsored weight management programs. In fact, two out of three respondents to this survey reported that they are interested in employer-sponsored weight control programs. But only 44% of overweight employees have access to these types of programs.
“People need to understand that modest weight loss – just 5% to 10% of total body weight – can make a difference. Supporting programs that promote healthy eating and exercise is fundamental. Employers who support this approach will reap the benefits,” Reality Coalition’s George L. Blackburn, MD, PhD, said in a press release.
MRC Greenwood, PhD, also from the Reality Coalition, stated that in the absence of supportive programs, many overweight, obese or sedentary employees may choose unrealistic or unhealthy approaches to weight loss. He added that cooperative and realistic programs are the best hope to make a difference in the health of employees.