Although U.S. employers are stepping up their efforts to fight workplace obesity, much progress could still be made, and more tools and resources are needed, particularly among small- and mid-size organizations, according to a survey by the National Business Coalition on Health in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Safety Council.
The survey finds that obesity prevention and weight management are most effective when they are included in an overall wellness and health promotion program, and all levels of leadership should work together to make changes. Employers are lacking information regarding how obesity impacts employee safety as well as other related health conditions and the corresponding cost burden.
Respondents report that they are now investing in obesity prevention. Among respondents that are not investing, they are interested in what they might do, how to do it and how to measure success. Distinguishing a relationship between safety and wellness is also an important component to addressing a healthy work force, the study notes.
"Given the amount of time an employee is at their place of work, there is an opportunity to positively influence the choices they make about their health," says Andrew Webber, NBCH president and CEO. "A workplace that emphasizes health is more likely to have policies that promote healthy behavior, such as incentives and access to health resources. While large employers have been at this for some time, small- to mid-sized employers have been less engaged but are increasingly seeing the value of these types of programs."
Another recent study published in the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” led by Duke University finds that 42 percent of Americans will be obese in 2030. With the growing number of overweight Americans, the correlated and costly chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are also increasing.
"This project was very helpful to us in understanding the small-employer perspective," says Jason Lang, MPH, MS, team lead of workplace health programs at National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC. "We were able to use findings to inform the development of obesity prevention and control strategies and tools for the CDC National Healthy Worksite Program, which is focused on helping small employers build comprehensive workplace health programs."