Obesity “Disease” Points to Value of Wellness Programs

Recently, the American Medical Association officially labeled obesity as a disease to spark debate across the country. While some are hailing the decision as long overdue, others claim it adds to an unnecessary stigma and it appears the debate will continue to rage. Whatever the outcome of the debate, businesses, health insurance providers and individuals can learn from the new label.

Health insurance providers already treat obesity as a major risk factor with premiums that vary based on weight measures like Body Mass Index (BMI). A 2012 study by eHealth found a 24% increase in premiums from normal to obese in females and a 29% increase for males.

Insurance agencies and businesses respond to all factors that increase insurance premiums in the same way, they look for risk management techniques to mitigate that risk. While it is impossible to create risk management techniques that would definitively prevent or eradicate obesity, there are positive steps you can take to encourage healthier lifestyles. For businesses, the most effective of these steps is to implement an effective wellness program.

These programs help to encourage a healthier working environment and workforce, and in light of the recent relabeling provide real value to employers and employees. While an effective wellness program requires solid planning and ongoing management, there are a few basic steps that you can use as a starting point.

1. Better Food

Step one is to look at the food on offer within your business, either from a cafeteria or vending machines. Simply filling these food resources with healthy options can have a big impact on employee wellness, as employees are encouraged to make healthier choices.

2. Inform

Alongside a change in the food available, it’s also valuable to talk to your employees about their food choices. By providing useful information on calorie counts and food ingredients you can help your employees make healthier decisions.

3. Encourage

The most important factor in an effective wellness program is encouragement. Find positive methods to influence employee decisions and encourage a fitter, healthier environment. Create pedometer monitored walking competitions or wellness contests that reward weight loss or exercise.

The debate over the labeling of obesity as a disease will continue to rage for some time as there are strongly held opinions on both sides. One thing that is not up for debate is the fact that an effective wellness plan can help your employees to stay healthy.

Do you have a question about your company’s wellness plan? Ask it here and get it answered by an expert.