Obesity is increasingly becoming a global crisis. Employers will suffer as a result of obesity epidemic and so should act to help treat it.
According to a new report ‘The Obesity Crisis and Its Health Risk Management Options’ from Lloyd’s broker Lockton, employers should address the obesity issue in their workplace to help cut the huge cost implications of diseases associated with obesity. That rethink should include promoting wellness programmes and, in extreme cases, surgery.
The author of the Lockton report, Ian Chuang, says that the impact of obesity is felt in the workplace in terms of productivity, fitness to work, and the impact of illnesses related to weight,” When you consider the workplace is where employees spend up to a third of their days, it is clear employers have an opportunity to indirectly influence employees through programs that promote healthy choices and behaviour."
Employers can establish policies and amenities that support healthy eating and some degree of physical activity at the workplace, including:
- Vending machine choices
- Filtered water
- Fitness for duty requirements
- Physical activity breaks
- Smoke-free workplace policy
- Cafeterias and food vendors that offer healthy food choices
- Incentives or subsidies for healthy behaviours
But the report states that some traditional wellness programmes may not provide enough help to morbidly obese employees and it highlights the potential role of bariatric surgery as a tool to assist in weight loss for those severely obese patients.
Surgery that restricts the intake or absorption of food, such as gastric banding, or the removal of a portion of the stomach, is an effective treatment especially for individuals who have managed to lose some weight through diet and exercise but failed to achieve enough weight loss, the report says.
The case for bariatric surgery is that it usually brings significant weight reduction, with average losses between 54 and 113 pounds. The average weight loss at 12 months for diet alone ranges from 5-10 pounds, by comparison. The report concedes that there are risks associated with bariatric surgery, including frequent complications and the potential for gaining back lost weight. But employers should still consider how expensive bariatric procedures could fit into their health benefit plans as it is often excluded from health insurance.