Companies and organizations are getting concerned about the weight of their employees. That’s the news from a survey by the Conference Board. That is good news because in case you haven’t noticed we are all getting a little bigger and for some people that is a real health concern.
The University of Laval in Quebec reports that according to Statistics Canada’s latest data the rate of Canadians in the obese category almost doubled between 1978 and 2005, rising from 13.8% to 24.3% of the adult population. That is almost 1 in 4 individuals. In 2005, the number of obese Canadians 18 or older was 5.5 million; 36% of the adult population was considered overweight; and 39% had a healthy weight. And pardon the pun, but the problem is growing.
And it’s not just a weight problem but a very real health concern as well. The Conference Board notes that “Obesity is one of the most important risk factors for many chronic illnesses and conditions, and employers have a role to play in supporting their employees on this very sensitive matter.” It believes that nutrition programs at work are a cost-effective way for employers to help employees have healthier diets, which lowers the risk of developing chronic diseases.
The good news is that two-thirds of Canadian organizations who responded to their survey already offer nutrition programs, but less than half measure the impact of their programs on employees and few organizations are aware of what their initiatives eat up in costs. So they are doing what they think is the right thing without really knowing if it is working.
This survey which took place in December 2012 found that employers support healthy nutrition in four main ways, by providing: healthy food options, education, health and nutrition counselling, and company-wide wellness challenges. The most common initiatives were healthy selections for the on-site cafeteria (52 per cent) and healthy options for on-site catered meetings (50 per cent). Healthy food selections for on-site vending machines are much less common among respondents – which can be a challenge for shift workers.
The main reason that employers are moving in this direction is that they do actually care about their employees and want them to live and work and eat in the healthiest way possible. But they are also concerned about their bottom line. Obesity leads to other health problems and both their attendance rates and health benefit costs both increase dramatically.
Just a refresher on obesity from Health Canada….
Obesity is one of the leading factors in heart disease and stroke, as well as in Type 2 diabetes, which affects an estimated 1.8 million Canadians. If you are overweight, you are at high risk of becoming obese, which can more seriously affect your health
If you are overweight or obese, you may be at risk for a wide range of serious diseases and conditions including:
• hypertension or high blood pressure;
• coronary heart disease;
• Type 2 diabetes;
• gallbladder disease;
• sleep apnea and other breathing problems;
• some cancers such as breast, colon and endometrial cancer; and
• mental health problems, such as low self-esteem and depression.
So now at least in many workplaces you can eat healthier. And that’s good news for everybody.
P.S. For my American friends things are even worse down there. Eat Healthier at Work and Save a Life… Yours
Mike Martin is a freelance writer and workplace wellness consultant. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People. He is also the author of the Sgt. Windflower mystery series set in Newfoundland.
For more information about Mike please visit www.changethethingsyoucan.wordpress.com