Employers Can Help Fight Childhood Obesity

By SHRM Online staff Sep 1, 2011

More than one-third of U.S. children are considered overweight or obese, leading to increased health risks, higher health care costs and decreased parental productivity at work.

With the prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S. nearly tripling over the past 30 years, employers should take the lead in the battle against the growing problem of overweight and obese children, advised the National Business Group on Health (NGBH), a nonprofit association of large U.S. employers.

“Child obesity is impacting employers today and will into the future as these children become the workforce of tomorrow,” said Helen Darling, NBGH president and CEO. “The good news is that employers can play a critical role in fighting the childhood obesity epidemic by helping families develop healthy lifestyles at work and in the home. In fact, a number of forward-thinking companies are already leading the charge.”

An NBGH survey of 83 of the nation’s largest companies identified the following programs employers use to help fight childhood obesity:

One-third of employers (33 percent) offer online weight management tools to children.

More than one in four employers (28 percent) offer telephonic or online coaching for weight management to children.

NBGH said employers will soon face a growing demand to provide treatment for childhood obesity. “With the new guidelines for screening under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), many more children nationally will be identified as overweight or obese, said LuAnn Heinen, a vice president and director of the NBGH’s Institute on Innovation in Workforce Well-being. “Employers can provide tools and resources to support and empower employees and work with health plans and community resources to develop and promote new approaches to childhood obesity prevention and treatment,” she noted.

The Obama administration's health initiatives include the president’s Childhood Obesity Task Force and the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, aimed at combating childhood obesity.

Employer Toolkit Expanded

The NBGH announced that it has updated its employer toolkit, Childhood Obesity: It’s Everyone’s Business,” to include examples of family-focused wellness programs that forward-thinking companies are employing to fight childhood obesity. The toolkit includes a new section on how employers can design their benefit programs to ensure that they are in accordance with screening guidelines required by the PPACA and how they can support obesity treatment options for children.

Related Video:

Childhood Obesity

Employers have a vested and growing interest in addressing obesity among their employees’ children, said Don Powell, CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine.

View video

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