Monday, October 20, 2014

The Cost of Obesity Provides an Incentive for Companies to Fine Tune Wellness Programs

Employers offer wellness programs to improve and maintain the health of their employees. By improving and maintaining the health of their employees, employers hope that productivity will rise and health care costs will decline. If wellness programs can be made to work for the long term, these programs can be quite beneficial, since employers spend more on benefits for obese employees than they do on benefits for normal weight employees.

According to a Reuters estimate, "obesity costs U.S. businesses a total of $13 billion a year." And "The [2014] May/June American Journal of Health Promotion reported that total health claims for morbidly obese employees cost their employers more than double the costs for normal-weight employees. Employers spend an average of $3,830 per year on benefits for normal-weight workers, and $8,067 for obese workers (2011 dollars)."

It is reasonable to believe that if a company puts an effective wellness program in place, the program will lead to an improvement in the company's bottom line. Indeed, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that the return on investment an employer might experience could be 3 to 6 dollars "for each dollar invested over" 2 to 5 years, if the employer chooses a comprehensive wellness program. The employer would also need to select health plans that deliver the necessary coverage and support for important preventive services.

And Right Management, a subsidiary of Manpower Inc.  concludes that a good wellness program can heighten an organization’s competitive edge by raising employee productivity and performance.

So an employer might have important business reasons to install a workable wellness program. And while there is evidence that these programs are often not as successful as desired, we believe that these programs can be effective. And obesity medicine specialists can play a key role in making these programs effective. These specialists can work with employers and wellness program organizers to customize the programs for specific company environments.


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