Upward Economy

Is Obesity Becoming an Economic Issue?

It might be that U.S. business leaders are finally ready to take on obesity as a serious economic issue. At a workshop of the Roundtable on Obesity Solutions at the National Academies in Washington Tuesday, diverse leaders from business, government, and even the banking system made the case that obesity is standing in the way of having a productive, competitive workforce.

Ralph Schulz of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce opened the day explaining that workforce health has become a critical factor for attracting new jobs and economic development to any community. Just as obesity has become a significant threat for military readiness over the last three decades, communities with high obesity rates are at risk of having a workforce that is uncompetitive. Healthcare costs, reduced productivity, disability, and workplace injuries linked to obesity are primary drivers for this concern.

The result is that business leaders are becoming engaged in the health of the communities in which they are invested.

Engaged means that they are looking in more sophisticated ways at the drivers of health in their communities, which points them straight to obesity. And that has businesses looking beyond superficial wellness programs. They are looking for more substantial solutions that address the complex drivers of obesity. Said David Zuckerman of the Democracy Collaborative, “It’s requiring an all-in approach — addressing not just some, but all of the drivers of community health.”

Derek Yach of the Vitality Institute described how the food industry is feeling compelled to invest and innovate to meet this challenge. He cautioned, “We will have to emphasize independent, objective, verifiable data. Otherwise, we will never know that we’re doing what we intend to be doing with these initiatives.”

Perhaps on the subject of obesity, we are learning once again that money talks.

Click here for more perspective on obesity in the workforce.

Upward Economy, photograph © www.tradingacademy.com / flickr

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April 13, 2016

3 Responses to “Is Obesity Becoming an Economic Issue?”

  1. April 13, 2016 at 1:10 pm, Stephen Phillips said:

    In response to Is Obesity Becoming an Economic Issue…let me quote from Concienhealth 3/straw-man-arguments-about-obesity-and-bmi/#sthash.CEH5noNU.dpuf

    “We occasionally hear from folks who find the notion that obesity is a disease to be quite offensive. In support of this perspective, the argument is that obesity cannot be a disease because everybody knows obesity is simply a label for having a high BMI. In other words, obesity is just a word used to pathologize people who are living in large bodies, based solely upon their body weight. In our view, this is a straw man argument based on a false definition of obesity.” –

    This following is an excerpt form an abstract of an elegant study using more than 40,000 subjects by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Using the blood pressure, triglyceride, cholesterol, glucose, insulin resistance and C-reactive protein data, population frequencies/percentages of metabolically healthy versus unhealthy individuals were stratified by BMI. Nearly half of overweight individuals, 29% of obese individuals and even 16% of obesity type 2/3 individuals were metabolically healthy. Moreover, over 30% of normal weight individuals were cardiometabolically unhealthy.

    Overweight/Obesity is simply an excess of adipose tissue diagnosed using BMI standards …it is not a measure of “reduced productivity, disability, and workplace injuries”
    We appaud the concept of community health ….for both thin and thick alike

    Stephen Phillips
    American Association of Bariatric Counselors

  2. April 13, 2016 at 6:47 pm, Ted said:

    Thanks, Stephen.

  3. April 15, 2016 at 5:01 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Yup – data and reason are one thing, right and wrong is another thing, but “money talks!”