Three Things Employers Can Do About Obesity

Of the many things employers are doing about obesity, some are creating ill will and controversy. Smart employers are finding better approaches. In a recent interview, ConscienHealth founder and principal Ted Kyle identified three things employers can do that will actually help.

  1. Create a healthy work environment. Employees spend most of their waking hours at work, with activities and conditions largely controlled by the employer. Planning an active work environment, providing healthy nutrition onsite, and creating a genuine culture of health can do more to promote health and prevent obesity than other, more indirect programs an employer might try.
  2. Provide health plans that cover evidence-based obesity treatment. A recent study showed that most of the employers setting weight-related health goals for employees are neglecting to provide coverage for obesity treatment in their health plans. Such obvious hypocrisy alienates the workforce and betrays a corporate culture that does not actually value health.
  3. Promote healthy behaviors, not arbitrary weight goals. Wellness programs that focus on arbitrary weight goals are already creating a backlash. When it comes to obesity and wellness, one size does not fit all. An arbitrary BMI goal of 25 will be effortless for some, and impossible for others. Best practice is to focus on health behaviors that are within reach for all. And under regulations for outcome-based wellness programs, employers will find themselves having to create reasonable alternatives for a great many employees who cannot meet an arbitrary goal anyway. Better to start with a program design that will work fairly for all.

Click here to read or listen to the interview with Kyle, click here and here to read more about healthy work environments, and click here to read more about the intersection of wellness programs and obesity treatment benefits.

Stairs in the Atrium, photograph © net_efekt / flickr

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