Obesity in the Workplace: Employers’ Concern Runs High

By Susan J. Wells Oct 1, 2010

October Cover

Employers and employees agree that the workplace is an appropriate setting for responding to weight management issues, according to recent research by the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance, a consortium directed by The George Washington University’s Department of Health Policy in Washington, D.C., and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Benefits managers at 505 public and private employers and 1,352 employees were polled for a 2009 study published by Health Affairs.

Among the findings:

  • 71 percent of employers view offering obesity-related services as appropriate.
  • 80 percent of employees, regardless of weight, agree that healthy lifestyles and weight management programs belong in the workplace.
  • 73 percent of employers view offering obesity-related services as effective.
  • 67 percent of employers are concerned about the effects of obesity on medical claims expenses.
  • 93 percent of employers see obesity as a preventable condition and the result of poor lifestyle choices.

Less than half of employers said their companies have given enough attention to the problem of obesity, notes Jon Gabel, a senior fellow at the National Opinion Research Center.

“Facing rising health care costs, employers are willing to address obesity head-on in the workplace,” he says. Executives seem to be saying, “Obesity is my company’s problem. And I need to do something about it.”


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