One of the many barriers to tackling overweight and obesity is that no-one thinks it’s their problem or their responsibility. People who are overweight often don’t recognise that they are or do not understand the health consequences. Industries that flog junk foods are adamant that it’s not their fault. Property developers, local governments and town planners have other priorities than whether they’re creating inactivity-promoting environments. Governments generally prefer to stress the role of individual choice and responsibility, rather than taking hard policy decisions, like restricting promotion of junk foods to kids.
But there are other players whose role we don’t often hear much about when it comes to the fight against fat. Employers and workplace managers could be making a useful contribution to their employees’ health, suggests a new systematic review published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It was conducted for the Task Force on Community Preventive Services at the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention.
The review is summarised by the CDC’s Community Guide here.
It analysed 47 studies examining the impact of education, behavioural and social strategies such as individual or group behavioural counselling, and policy or environmental approaches such as improving access to healthy foods in vending machines and providing on-site exercise facilities.
In nine studies, participating employees lost an average of 1.3 kgs after 12 months, compared with control groups.
The review concluded that no one focus, diet or physical activity, or combination of both appeared to be better than others in terms of its effect on weight loss.
Most of the studies involved a white collar workforce that included some employees with overweight or other chronic disease risk conditions.
The range of cost-effectiveness estimates from three studies (two involving weight-loss competitions and one involving a physical fitness program) varied from $US 1.44 to $4.16 per pound of loss in body weight (one pound being 0.45 kg for those not old enough to remember…)
If employers want a fit, healthy workforce into the future, they may need to start stepping up to the plate, so to speak, and accepting that they have some role – along with everyone else – in obesity control.