Employers urged to help tackle obesity

“Employers should not remain indifferent to the power of their influence,” – the Better Health at Work Alliance

As news this week suggests that a fifth of the world’s population will be obese by 2025, the Better Health at Work Alliance (BHWA) is advising employers that they have the power to influence the obesity crisis – and that it’s in their best interests to act.
According to Majid Ezzati from Imperial College, who led the research, smart food policies and improved healthcare training can help us to avoid an “epidemic of severe obesity”. But, with the potential impact such an epidemic would make to any workforce, the BHWA is warning that employers should not remain indifferent to the power of their influence.
The BHWA has advised that straightforward steps an organisation should be looking at include access to healthy food options, promoting an active workplace, providing information on being healthy and incentivising staff to follow it, or making adjustments to the work environment that encourage behavioural change such as standing desks, walking clubs or bike racks.
Director Charlotte Cross said: “Obesity is relevant to all employers and can impact the bottom line of any organisation through obvious health ramifications and associated productivity and performance issues. As the obesity problem grows, employers will inevitably face more of these challenges.
“While simple measures can and should play an important part in any employers approach, the diversity of our expert membership shows us that employers have access to a significant range of evidence based solutions from workplace health specialists ready and willing to help, and the power to make an impact is in their hands. We urge all organisations to get involved and sway this issue which has huge ramifications for the UK working population”
Raising the link to dementia, one of the lesser known health ramifications of obesity and another serious issue for employers, John Picken, managing director of CANTAB Corporate Health, a BHWA founder member said: “Worldwide clinical research has shown that obesity in mid-life plays a considerable role in cognitive impairment including preclinical dementia symptoms and dementia.  Giving employees the chance to measure their cognitive health as well as their physical health will help them manage this life-threatening but potentially reversible health risk.”
Mark Braithwaite, managing director of Gipping Occupational health, another founder of the alliance, said: “When dealing with obesity, or any other health taboo, it is key to ensure consistency of response throughout the organisation so that no individual feels inappropriately ‘singled out’.
“Providing access to impartial advice and guidance from a qualified health professional, such as an OH Advisor, enables employees to talk openly, learn and improve management of their own health and ultimately take responsibility, whilst equally providing support to the employer in working towards a positive outcome.”
The BHWA is the UK workplace health industry’s first broadly inclusive membership body, launched in February 2015 and led by Cross.
It offers access to solutions, information, and guidance via its website, at which users can  tap into expert knowledge through free resources including an ‘Ask the Expert’ forum, collaborative wikis, and guides.
The BHWA brings together a wide range of leading workplace health specialists and already has the endorsement of over 30 key industry organisations.