April 23, 2007

Obese workers cost businesses money

Does your place of work have a cafeteria?

And does it offer a plethora of healthy options?

Probably not, and that costs businesses billions of dollars a year.

One of the hidden costs of obesity is injuries.

Duke University researchers found that the fattest workers had 13 times more lost workdays due to work-related injuries, and their medical claims for those injuries were seven times higher than their fit co-workers.

By no means am I advocating that we start discriminating against obese workers. It's the opposite. I think we should help them with better food and drinks in the workplace. And let's create meaningful incentives for workers to get thinner.

CNN.com reports:

Obesity experts said they hope the study will convince employers to invest in programs to help fight obesity. One employment attorney warned companies that treating fat workers differently could lead to discrimination complaints.

Overweight workers were more likely to have claims involving injuries to the back, wrist, arm, neck, shoulder, hip, knee and foot than other employees.

The findings were based on eight years of data from 11,728 people.

The most obese workers -- those with BMIs of 40 or higher -- had the highest rates of claims and lost workdays.

Study co-author Dr. Truls Ostbye said the findings should encourage employers to sponsor fitness programs.

"There are many promising programs," Ostbye said. "We'd like to see more research about what is truly effective."

James Hill, who heads the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, said managers will pay attention to the findings because injuries mean more immediate financial losses than the future health-care costs of diabetes and heart disease.

"When you see that claims rates double, I think that's going to get people's attention," Hill said.

Corporate America: are you listening?

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