Obesity Prevention at the Workplace

In 2008, the annual healthcare cost of obesity in the U.S. was estimated to be as high as 147 billion dollars a year. The annual medical burden of obesity increased to 9.1 percent in 2006 compared to 6.5 percent in 1998. Medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for a person with a healthy weight. Workplace obesity-prevention programs can be an effective way for employers to reduce obesity and lower their health care costs, reduce absenteeism and increase employee productivity.

Obesity and the health conditions associated with it; such as, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and certain types of cancer are responsible for much of the increase in health care spending by employers. Obese persons spend 77% more than non-obese persons for necessary medications.

Obesity affects more than health care costs, it also has a significant impact on worker productivity because the more chronic medical conditions an employee has, the higher the probability of absenteeism or presenteeism.

Organizations can benefit directly by improving employee health through an obesity-prevention program. A survey of CEOs found that “healthier employees” is the number one reason why companies choose to implement health promotion programs. Additionally, well-designed programs have the potential to extend beyond the worksite and positively influence dependents (spouses and children), and thereby reduce an organization’s health care costs.

Although it may seem that only large organizations can implement obesity prevention and control programs, organizations of all sizes have done so successfully. Many types of organizations, including those with few employees and resources, are implementing successful obesity prevention programs.

Why Should Employers Get Involved

Potential benefits to employers:

  • Reduces cost for chronic diseases
  • Decreases absenteeism
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Improves worker satisfaction
  • Demonstrates concern for your employees
  • Improves morale

Potential benefits to your employees:

  • Ensures greater productivity
  • Reduces absenteeism
  • Improves fitness and health
  • Provides social opportunity and source of support within the workplace

CDC offers free obesity-reduction resource

Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition” (LEAN) is a free web-based resource offered by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that offers interactive tools and evidence-based resources to design effective worksite obesity prevention and control programs. You will be able to calculate your company’s ROI using CDC’s Obesity Cost Calculator, [http://www.cdc.gov/leanworks/costcalculator/index.html] a tool designed to allow employers to create scenarios to estimate the financial impact of specific obesity interventions, including the costs, benefits, and time required to break even.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!