A weighty health care issue - Employers need to embrace wellness programs to fight obesity
Premium content from Dallas Business Journal - by Ashley Forbes Kellogg
Does anyone remember how long it’s been since the airlines dropped weight requirements for flight attendants? Here’s a clue: At the time, they were still called stewardesses.
With rising costs in health care, companies must consider the financial issue of body weight and its bearing on retaining and acquiring employees.
There are few things that are more clearly and directly threatening to personal health than being overweight or underweight. Being overweight dramatically raises the odds of becoming diabetic. Diabetics cost on average $6,604 more than nondiabetics in direct health care costs, have 72 percent higher work absentee rates and are 20 percent less productive, the National Council on Aging found.
Experts predict that the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes will double in the next 25 years due to the aging of the population, along with obesity rates. Medical spending for this population is projected to almost triple. And diabetes is but the tip of the iceberg.
Can companies (legally) afford not to consider weight as a factor in hiring, restructuring and
Numbers don’t lie
Jacqueline Kelleher, the wellness coordinator at Dallas-based MHBT, a major supplier of
Nearly everyone knows on some level — both personally and professionally — the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. We all have much to be grateful for and our health has to be at the top of that list. But the majority of us struggle with this issue; we do not relate the cause and effect of what we eat. McDonald’s would go out of business overnight if a Big Mac immediately popped up under our skin (whole) 30 seconds after eaten.
Another provocative thought: This group of overweight workers that has or could become
Guilt only goes so far
Guilt is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere. Many
Dallas-based HealthPoints is a disease management company that tackles this human tendency head-on. HealthPoints’ leadership tried to find such a system while running the care and disease management program at United Healthcare.
“From a corporate standpoint, this is an appealing population to target for cost savings. These employees are likely to be already generating costs, and unaddressed, these costs will only accelerate,” said Rebecca Dubowy, chief medical officer at HealthPoints.
The quicker you can associate the behavior with the goal, the more likely positive results will occur.
“For the diabetic, it is easy to deny the importance of periodic advice provided by caregivers,” said Dubowy. “It’s all too easy to deny the danger of high glucose readings long after the event has been survived. Effective intervention must happen quickly and offer a teachable moment.”
HeathPoints has found that intervention based on consistent contact works. Other essential
The program must be easy.
Setting expectations is key. An opt-out program is far more effective than an opt-in program.
Education must be pushed to participants vs. pulling people toward their goal.
Relating human behaviors to goals is an interesting field of study. It’s the ultimate contest of
KELLOGG is president of ForbesRobinson, www.forbesrobinson.com, a business development consulting firm specializing in event-driven marketing. She can be reached at
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