obesity workplace wellness

New U.S. Obesity Report Shows Focused Programs Can Make Positive Difference

We recently posted a New England Journal of Medicine study that looks at “Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years.”

The report notes: “The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing worldwide. Epidemiologic studies have identified high body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) as a risk factor for an expanding set of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, many cancers, and an array of musculoskeletal disorders. As the global health community works to develop treatments and prevention policies to address obesity, timely information about levels of high BMI and health effects at the population level is needed.”

The study touts the benefits of “interventions,” concluding: “Our results show that both the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI are increasing globally. These findings highlight the need for implementation of multicomponent interventions to reduce the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI.”

Now a new study by two major non-profit groups shows that one-third of American adults are obese, according to CBS News.

However, there may be some good news that speaks to the positive effect a well-run workplace wellness program can have on managing weight and the chronic diseases that can accompany obesity: Sustained interventions may be showing progress:

As the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports: “Adult obesity rates are showing signs of leveling off, according to the 14th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)—but progress could be eroded if programs are cut and policies are weakened.”

“This year, adult obesity rates exceeded 35 percent in five states, 30 percent in 25 states, and 25 percent in 46 states. As of 2000, no state had an obesity rate above 25 percent.”

“In the past year, adult obesity rates increased in four states (Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, and West Virginia), decreased in one state (Kansas), and remained stable in the rest. This supports trends that have shown steadying levels in recent years. Last year was the first time this annual report recorded any declines in adult obesity rates, with four states experiencing declines, and, overtime, growth has started to slow. In 2006, rates increased in 31 states; in 2010, rates increased in 16 states.”

“Obesity rates are still far too high, but the progress we’ve seen in recent years is real and it’s encouraging,” said Richard E. Besser, MD, president and CEO of RWJF. “That progress could be easily undermined if leaders and policymakers at all levels don’t continue to prioritize efforts that help all Americans lead healthier lives.”

Tomorrow: More report details, as well as the report’s recommendations for policymakers — many of which are relevant for well-run workplace wellness programs, too.