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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Employers and employees agree: The workplace is an appropriate setting for responding to weight management issues, according to new research by the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
Lead NORC researchers said the survey findings demonstrates willingness to and a desire for help. Across the board, all employees – including people who are average weight, overweight, and people who are obese – exhibited a strong desire for weight management help from their employers. They also indicated a willingness to pay more for various workplace weight-loss options, including exercise programs, nutritional counseling and other means. Employers also acknowledged their role in providing obesity prevention and management options for their employees.
“Effective obesity prevention interventions can help save millions of American lives and reduce health care costs in our nation. The workplace is where adults spend the bulk of their time and employers can play an important role in promoting healthy lifestyles and providing options to overcome overweight and obesity,” said Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, 17th Surgeon General of the United States (2002-2006), Vice Chairman of Canyon Ranch, President of the non-profit Canyon Ranch Institute, Distinguished Professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, and Health and Wellness Chairperson for the Alliance Steering Committee. “With its diverse collaboration of organizations, the STOP Obesity Alliance is uniquely positioned to help employers identify new, effective solutions that address the nation’s obesity epidemic.”
Relating to this need, two STOP Obesity Alliance Steering Committee members, DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have joined to examine an obesity benefit designed by DMAA that may be piloted by SEIU employees. This effort, which if executed will be evaluated for effectiveness, supports a STOP Obesity Alliance policy recommendation for innovative approaches to preventing and managing overweight and obesity. It also typifies the kind of innovation that could help the country take a step toward overcoming obesity.
Key Employer & Employee Survey Findings
- 71% of employers view offering obesity-related services as appropriate
- 80% of employees, regardless of weight, agree healthy lifestyles/weight management programs belong in the workplace
- 73% of employers view offering obesity-related services as effective
- 67% of employers are concerned about the effects of obesity on medical claims expenses
- 93% of employers see obesity as a preventable condition and the result of poor lifestyle choices
- Less than half of employers believe their company has given enough attention to the problem of obesity
“Facing rising health care costs, employers are willing to address obesity head-on in the workplace,” said Jon Gabel, a Senior Fellow at NORC and the principal investigator, on the study. “By their actions, businesses seem to be saying that regardless of whose fault it is, obesity is my company’s problem. And I need to do something about it.”