obesity workplace wellness

Tackling Obesity: A Challenge Individually, Collectively

Tacking obesity is not only a challenge individually, but it also can help drive program design of a well-run workplace program.

We recently reported that the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force has issued a Draft Recommendation Statement on the role of behavioral interventions titled “Weight Loss to Prevent Obesity-Related Morbidity and Mortality in Adults: Behavioral Interventions.”

The Task Force exists because, as the group states, “Since 1998, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has been authorized by the U.S. Congress to convene the Task Force and to provide ongoing scientific, administrative, and dissemination support to the Task Force.”

The report concludes: “The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that offering or referring adults with obesity to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions (i.e., behavior-based weight loss and weight loss maintenance interventions) has a moderate net benefit.”

We also have been providing data from the World Health Organization’s “Obesity and Overweight” report.

But beyond the numbers, how can overweight and obesity be reduced? The WHO identifies tactics that can help individuals as well as well-run workplace wellness programs.

The World Health Organization writes: “Overweight and obesity, as well as their related noncommunicable diseases, are largely preventable. Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, by making the choice of healthier foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (the choice that is the most accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing overweight and obesity.”

Tackling obesity requires coordinated effort — action can be taken individually and collectively. According to the WHO, at the individual level, people can:

  • limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;
  • increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts; and
  • engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes spread through the week for adults).

The WHO continues: “Individual responsibility can only have its full effect where people have access to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, at the societal level it is important to support individuals in following the recommendations above, through sustained implementation of evidence based and population based policies that make regular physical activity and healthier dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible to everyone, particularly to the poorest individuals. An example of such a policy is a tax on sugar sweetened beverages.”

Further: “The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:

  • reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods;
  • ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers;
  • restricting marketing of foods high in sugars, salt and fats, especially those foods aimed at children and teenagers; and
  • ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace.