SOURCE: Northeast Business Group on Health

November 04, 2013 09:00 ET

Employers Point to Obesity as Tough Workplace Health Challenge

Report From Northeast Business Group on Health Highlights Problems Employers Face in Finding Solutions and Identifies Program Elements Necessary for Future Success

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Nov 4, 2013) - Cost and prevalence make obesity one of the top health challenges for employers and they need help figuring out how to implement programs that work, says a report released today by Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH). The report, "Weight Control and the Workplace," cites as key findings the need for individually-customized instead of generic programs, and the importance of including employees in designing and rolling out such programs. Findings are based on a collaborative examination of obesity's toll on the workplace by 15 executives from large employers and health plans, facilitated by NEBGH.

"Overweight employees cost employers more than $73 billion each year and put themselves at risk for diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and other chronic illnesses," said Laurel Pickering, President and CEO of NEBGH, an independent coalition of large national employers and other organizations working to improve healthcare value and reduce cost. "Employers, health plans and healthcare providers need to come up with coordinated, compelling approaches that engage employees in managing their weight in order to stem skyrocketing healthcare costs and improve public health."

A majority of employers identified "employees' poor health habits" as one of their top three challenges to maintaining affordable health coverage, and are trying strategies ranging from offering healthier cafeteria options and on-site exercise programs to comprehensive wellness programs. But they are running into trouble when it comes to dealing with obesity and weight management.

"One of the challenges employers face in engaging people in weight control efforts is the stigma attached to being overweight or obese," said Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Solutions Center, NEBGH's platform for researching approaches to healthcare issues of critical importance to employers. "Official recognition of obesity as a disease by the American Medical Association could increase physician engagement in identifying overweight and obese individuals for intervention, as well as help reduce the stigma and pave the way for increased participation in employer-sponsored efforts."

The NEBGH report details current behavioral, pharmacological, surgical and provider-focused weight control intervention strategies, and identifies models that have demonstrated effectiveness as well as issues employers face in implementing various initiatives.

The report also highlights what roundtable participants identified as key elements of a successful weight control program:

  • Support from top executives in making wellness an organizational priority;
  • Incentives and discounts to increase employee participation;
  • Branding and marketing efforts to build trust and attract employee participation;
  • ROI data to build a compelling business case for investments in weight control and wellness efforts;
  • Establishing success measures that include health outcomes, and employee engagement and satisfaction.

Financial support for the NEBGH report and its related activities was provided by Vivus, Inc.

Copies of the report, "Weight Control and the Workplace" can be downloaded at

About Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH): NEBGH is a nonprofit coalition of 200 employers, providers, insurers and other stakeholders that speaks with one voice for quality, accountability and value in the region's healthcare system.

The Solutions Center is NEBGH's platform for researching, examining and disseminating innovative ways to address the nation's most critical healthcare issues.

For more information, contact Laurel Pickering at 212-252-7440 x224 or email at

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