As more employers are becoming educated about the toll obesity in the workforce can extract from a company,solutions continue to hit the marketplace that are designed toaddress the epidemic. Within the last few days, perhaps thebest-known brand in the weight control arena said it was partneringwith a major health plan provider to offer employers a new ally inthe obesity battle.

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Weight Watchers International and Humana Inc. said the latterwill integrate the former’s signature weight control programs intoits employer sponsored health plans. Employees in those plans willbe able to sign up for a free or discounted membership in WeightWatchers. The membership offer will be among the features ofHumana’s wellness programs available to employers.

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Employees will receive their first six months’ membership forfree, and will be able to continue with a discounted membershipafter that period, the partners said in a release.

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“We want to help employers find effective ways to battleobesity, improve the overall wellness of their employees and createhealthy communities,” said Beth Bierbower, president of Humana’semployer group segment. “With that in mind, partnering with WeightWatchers just made sense — it allows us to connect our members witha leading weight management program so that they can betternavigate their wellness journeys.”

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Those who participate can do so in two ways: by attending thetraditional Weight Watchers meetings, or through onlineinteraction. Those who attend the meetings also have access toonline tools and a chat program for additional support.

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The partnership was applauded by the National BusinessGroup on Health, a nonprofit formed to help businesses bettercontain their health care costs and to support their effortsto have better employee health outcomes.

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“Obesity is a significant health issue for this country and hasa devastating effect on the health of employees and, by extension,on their employers,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of theNational Business Group on Health. “We applaud the commitment byHumana and Weight Watchers to battle obesity and we embrace theirinitiative to make weight loss programs widely available to healthplan members. Ultimately, employers can and should play a role incombating obesity and will welcome the development of accessible,affordable and evidence-based weight management solutions.”

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.