- For the most part, reducing workplace weight gain and obesity has been a losing battle, but a new report advises employers that there may be a way to help employees improve their weight loss. The secret to success? Targeted, personalized programs for employee subgroups, combined with nutrition and fitness activities that apply to broad employee populations.
- The Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) report, “Tipping the Scales on Weight Control: New Strategies for Employers,” says the first step is to differentiate employees by body mass index (BMI), a key weight metric, and focus programs and benefits most appropriate for each segment as a way to help increase the effectiveness in reversing the obesity epidemic.
- NEBGH's report is based on interviews and a December 2015 workshop attended by 40 stakeholders, most of them employer benefits and/or wellness professionals.
Many employers have worked hard to offer eating and exercise wellness programs that encourage healthy behaviors, but that's often not enough to reverse the obesity trend. There also are tools such as digital coaching, medically-supervised weight loss, medications, behavioral counseling and bariatric surgery — all can have an impact as complementary to broader workplace wellness programs. As the NEBGH study says, investing in these efforts, through access to benefits and targeted programs, can have significant payoffs in terms of improved employee population health and reduced medical costs.
It's becoming clearer that issues like job stress, overbooked schedules, not enough breaks and overnight shift work can promote poor eating and little exercise. The study drives home the message that employers should pay closer attention to the emotional factors and behavioral cues that must be managed in any weight control program. The NEBGH report should serve as a warning to HR leaders and senior managers that obesity is not something that can only be addressed outside the workplace.