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EMPLOYEE WELLNESS

Report highlights need for greater focus on employee health

Medical practices often stress to their patients the benefits of good nutrition and exercise. And that advice extends to staff members.

The cost of obesity

By some estimates, Americans spend as much as $316 billion annually on obesity-related medical treatment, and obesity-related absenteeism is estimated to cost employers $8.6 billion in lost productivity.

The fattest cities in America

Those numbers led personal finance social network WalletHub to conduct in-depth analysis, which is detailed in its report, 2017’s Metro Areas with the Biggest & Smallest Weight Problems.

WalletHub examined 100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas across 17 key metrics in order to call attention to the communities where weight-related problems are most prevalent. Metrics include the percentage of adults and teenagers who are obese and the percentage of people who are physically inactive.

According to WalletHub, these two lists represent the top 5 metro areas with the lowest percentage of obese adults and the top 5 metro areas with the highest percentage of obese adults.

  Top 5 Metro Areas with Lowest Percentage of Obese Adults Top 5 Metro Areas with the Highest Percentage of Obese Adults
1. San Francisco-Oakland Hayward, CA McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
2. Ashville, NC Memphis, TN-MS-AR
3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
4. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Wichita, KS
5. Reno, NV San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

Should employers intervene? And how?

Mohammad (Mo) Siapush, Associate Dean for Research and Professor for Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health at University of Nebraska Medical Center points out that since most people spend many hours of their day in the workplace, employers have an opportunity to play a significant role in reducing obesity. And when you look at the economic impact of obesity on worker productivity, he adds, “Not only employees, but employers will gain from obesity control.”

According to Elissa Epel, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, employers can help workers maintain a healthy weight by creating a culture of health. “They can create a culture that creates rewards and incentives for collaboration, for good mentoring, for healthy choices. For example, there are ways to build movement into the work day, such as walking meetings, walk to work, movement breaks, and allowing staff flexible schedules that promote their own work life balance.”

To get buy-in, focus on fun not shame

There are many ways that an organization can help employees control or prevent obesity from raising awareness to introducing physical activity programs in the workplace.

While Jennifer D. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, Faculty Associate in the Maryland Population Health Research Center and Director of the Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment Laboratory at the University of Maryland encourages the use of company-wide programs, she adds an important caveat: “Have fun. It is important that employees perceive these acts not as punitive or obesity-shaming acts.”

Roberts stresses that by introducing these programs as fun initiatives, to be enjoyed by everyone in the organization—including the bosses, “employees may feel less targeted and more receptive to the benefits that these recommendations will bring.”

Read the full report and see where your metro area ranks: 2017’s Metro Areas with the Biggest & Smallest Weight Problems


Editor’s picks:

Why your medical practice should implement an employee wellness program—and how to do it


EEOC issues final rules on employer wellness programs


Focus on employee health and see an increase in productivity


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