According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2009, almost
3 in 10 adults (26.7-percent) is now statistically obese, and between 2007-2009 the number of states whose percentage of obese individuals is 30-percent or higher up from three to nine. The increasing obesity rates are not increasing diabetes and heart disease rates, but are also increasing costs in the workplace due to decreased productivity.
In 2008, the annual healthcare cost of obesity in the US was estimated to be as high as 147 billion dollars a year, with the medical expenses for obese employees estimated to be 42-percent higher than for a person with a healthy weight. Recently, companies in Baltimore such as Domino Sugar and Laureate Education have implemented workplace wellness prevention programs to help provide incentives such as weight loss contests and fitness subsidies, respectively to help their employees stay healthy.
Workplace wellness programs that have already been implemented in several hospitals in greater Phoenix, Ariz., such as the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale are generating savings through such wellness programs, saving money and increasing productivity through decreases in ER visits, insurance claims, and sick days. Chandler Regional Medical Center, who has had an employee wellness program since 2005, has had significant decreases in absenteeism and staff ER visits since the implementation of their wellness center.
If your workplace doesn’t have a workplace wellness program already in place, there are several things you can do to make your workplace healthier:
1.) Talk with your supervisor about starting a workplace wellness program. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has been accredited by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for its workplace wellness program, and is involved in the Healthiest Maryland initiative to encourage businesses to implement wellness programs. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides the LEAN (Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition) resource online that offers interactive tools and evidence-based resources to help companies design effective worksite obesity prevention programs.
2.) Encourage healthy snacks during meetings. Instead of the traditional donuts and coffee, encourage your company to provide healthier snacks such as whole grain bagels and 100% fruit juices during morning meetings. Also, when co-workers go for a coffee run, opt for skim milk based drinks instead of high fat coffee drinks with whipped cream.
3.) Bring a bag lunch. It is often very tempting when other co-workers take a trip to the local eatery to “treat” yourself to eating lunch out. This can often lead to ingesting more calories and fat than you originally anticipated.
4.) Pack healthy snacks. Sitting at a computer all day can prompt occasional walks to the vending machine to grab snacks for sugar and caffeine to keep you going. Bring small containers of carrot sticks, almonds, as well as granola bars, bananas, and apples to keep in the work kitchen or in your lunch bag for a healthy pick-me-up during the day that won’t sabotage your healthy lifestyle.
For more tips, visit Diets in Review or send your questions to be answered in future “Readers Questions Answered” articles.