Employees and Employers Face Obesity Issue, Seek Solutions

A recent study of employer and employee attitudes about obesity demonstrates that both parties concur on one thing: Workplace weight management programs are appropriate and effective.

The survey findings, which were revealed by the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance May 22 during a Washington D.C., briefing, concluded that 71 percent of employers view offering obesity-related services as appropriate and 73 percent also saw them as effective. In addition, 80 percent of employees surveyed agreed that weight management programs belong in the workplace.

The alliance commissioned the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) from the University of Chicago to conduct the survey. NORC researchers said the findings demonstrate that employers are willing to help their workers manage their weight.

According to the survey, the majority of employers — 67 percent — are concerned about medical costs associated with obesity, and therefore may be willing to accept a formulaic plan to combat this health issue. In addition, 93 percent of employers said they see obesity as a preventable condition and the result of poor lifestyle choices.

To help companies address the obesity issue, two organizations, DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), joined forces to test a new prototype developed by DMAA to help employers offer workplace weight-loss options without creating a health and financial burden.

“Employers and other health care purchasers recognize the severe burden obesity places on health and productivity. But often they have piecemeal solutions to the problem,” said DMAA President and CEO Tracey Moorhead during the news conference.

The prototype, called the Value-Based Benefit Design for Obesity and Comorbidities, is a three-level package of obesity treatment strategies. Each level is supported by an underlying disease-management program for obesity and related conditions.

Occupational Hazards spoke with Moorhead o get a better sense of the prototype's structure. She explained the first level of coverage would provide primary care physician services, professional nutritional counseling and obesity-specific drugs. A second tier would add specialized obesity care and the third level, surgical interventions.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all type of program; it's designed to tweaked so that it can cater to a variety of people in order for them to live healthier lives,” said Moorhead.

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