According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.9 percent of American adults are obese, totaling about 78.6 million individuals. This metabolic disorder increases the risk of several other chronic conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer.
In addition to hurting the health of patients, obesity also negatively impacts employers' bottom line. Workers who become sick cannot contribute to a company. In 2008, the average annual medical cost of an obese individual was more than $1,400 higher than that of someone who was not obese. These facts underscore the importance of innovative treatments and prevention measures.
According to an article published in Human Resource Executive Online, HR solutions need to entail both wellness programs and comprehensive health benefits.
Internet is playing bigger role
The news source noted that technology is playing an increasingly larger role in weight loss efforts. There are numerous websites that help individuals keep track of their weight loss goals, monitor progress and take advantage of tips for healthy eating and physical activity. However, experts point out that some individuals need more intensive care. This may include therapy to dissect behaviors related to obesity, such as stress eating, and replace these habits with healthier ones. Still, employers who provide access to such therapy need to keep in mind that while some employees may enjoy group benefits and efforts, such as weight loss competitions, others may prefer to tackle these problems privately. Workers in the latter category may feel better turning to the Web applications.
Health plans direct workers to providers
Additionally, a report from the Northeast Business Group on Health suggested that employers need to be prepared to offer things above and beyond the preventive approaches of wellness groups, such as medical benefits that cover new medications and bariatric surgery.
"Health plans have made and are making great progress in [providing] tools and identifying the best healthcare providers based on quality measures the plan has created," Laurel Pickering, president and CEO of NEBGH, told Human Resource Executive Online. "Until we get more mature in engaging and measuring physicians' performance, I think an employer's health plan is the best source for finding the best providers to [deliver] comprehensive health and wellness to employees, and to best serve overweight patients."
Ultimately, employers need to make sure that their workers have access to a variety of weight loss strategies so that employees can find out what works best for them.