U.S. Businesses Recognize the High Cost of Obesity–Should Delaware Employers Do the Same?

Delaware businesses, if you worry about obesity and its effects on your workforce, you are not alone. Across the country, there has been a sharp turn in focus by major businesses and commercial organizations. The focus shift has been towards obesity as a costly characteristic of our modern workforce.
Obesity & Employers

As discussed in earlier posts, many observers worry that the current trend in refusing to hire smokers will spill over to other areas of employees’ health. Obesity is commonly cited as the next likely target.

There is, certainly, some logic behind the argument. One place to find support for the idea of regulating employee’s waistlines can be found in the report by The Conference Board, Weights and Measures: What Employers Should Know about Obesity. In its report, the Conference Board examines the financial and ethical questions surrounding whether, and how, U.S. companies should address the obesity epidemic. The report was featured on April 9th’s episode of Marketplace, public radio’s popular business program.

Some of the findings from the study include:

      ~Obesity is associated with a 36-percent increase in spending on healthcare services, more than smoking or problem drinking.

      ~More than 40 percent of U.S. companies have implemented obesity-reduction programs, and 24 percent more said they plan to do so in 2008.

      ~Estimates of ROI for wellness programs range from zero to $5 per $1 invested.

      ~ROI aside, these programs may give companies an edge in recruiting and retaining desirable employees.

      ~Meanwhile, some say it may be more effective just to award employees cash and prizes for weight loss rather than devote resources to long-term wellness programs.

      ~Employers need to weigh the risks of being too intrusive in managing obese employees against the risks of not managing them

But NPR isn’t the only organization tuned in to the obesity debate. Bloomberg.com also featured the Conference Board’s findings this month, as did Forbes.com. Human Resources professionals are also turning towards the issue, as demonstrated by the articles at Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), The Salary Reporter, and this article by Larry J. Rector from the West Virginia Employment Law Letter, which can be found through the H.R. Hero website.

If these big-name players have turned their focus to the “obesity crisis,” should Delaware employers do the same?

For previous posts about the increasingly close involvement employers have in the private health matters of their employees:

Off-Duty Conduct in the News

There’s No Hiding From Your Own Bad Habits

Are Today’s Wellness Programs Running Out of Steam?

DOL Offers Compliance Tool for Wellness Programs

Is Obesity the Next Protected Class?

The Link Between Race & Obesity

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