AAOHN: Employers Can Give Workers a Healthy Start in the New Year

Jan. 4, 2008
Now that 2008 is underway, people are committed to their New Year’s resolutions of losing weight and kicking the smoking habit. According to data compiled by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), employers can help workers achieve these health goals.

A survey commissioned by AAOHN suggests that workplace weight-management programs play a tremendous role in helping employees achieve weight loss. In fact, the survey reveals nearly half of all respondents who participated in workplace weight-management programs reported success in reaching and maintaining their long-term goals.

In addition, companies that help their employees stay healthy benefit from not having to shell out money for healthcare costs and lost productivity. AAOHN noted that the price businesses pay for obesity-attributable illness is as much as $13 billion annually.

“These findings are significant, indicating the value of workplace weight-management programs and representing a call-to-action for more businesses to provide employees with the types of onsite wellness programs that speak directly to obesity, and for more employees to take advantage of these programs,” said AAOHN President Richard Kowalski.

Employees cited workplace support groups, occupational health guidance from onsite professionals and healthier food selections in company cafeterias as contributing factors in their weight loss success.

Employers Implement Smoke-Free Programs

A survey issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showed that 59 percent of private employers either had smoke-free facility policies or permitted smoking only in separately ventilated areas. Employers also can implement tobacco cessation programs to help employees kick the habit.

“The worksite is an ideal environment in which to encourage smokers to quit,” Kowalski said. “Employees spend so much time at work that smoke-free policies can provide the incentive they need to succeed.”

For every employee who smokes, U.S. businesses will pay an average of $1,400 per year per smoker, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, companies pay a whopping $47.2 billion in indirect costs from smoking-attributable illness and death, including absenteeism, worker’s compensation payments, accidents and fires, property damage and secondhand smoke exposure.

To help employees kick the smoking habit, CDC suggests that employers provide support by paying for their employees’ participation in smoking cessation programs, partnering with healthcare providers and insurance companies, offering referral support and providing self-help materials.

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