Obesity in the Workplace: Impacts, Outcomes and Recommendations

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The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is the authoritative group that provides guidance to health professionals that serve and care for employee populations in work organizations.  This guidance statement provides a consensus among occupational health professionals about the impact, outcomes to be expected and recommendations for dealing with obesity in working populations.  Obesity status affects approximately 37.7% of the U.S. adult population and represents a major concern of virtually all employee and worksite wellness initiatives. A body mass index (BMI) of ≥ 30 kg/m2 is the generally accepted threshold for obesity.

Objective: To conduct a comprehensive literature review to develop recommendations for managing obesity among workers to improve health outcomes and to explore the impact of obesity on health costs to determine whether a case can be made for surgical interventions and insurance coverage. Methods: We searched PubMed from 2011 to 2016, and CINAHL, Scopus, and Cochrane Registry of Clinical Trials for interventions addressing obesity in the workplace. Results: A total of 1419 articles were screened, resulting in 275 articles being included. Several areas were identified that require more research and investigation. Conclusions: Our findings support the use of both lifestyle modification and bariatric surgery to assist appropriate patients in losing weight.

The types of issues addressed in this article includes:

  • Methodology used by ACOEM to weigh the evidence for evaluating the outcomes of employer efforts to reduce obesity.
  • Estimates of the economic burden associated with obesity.
  • Staging of obesity and its health and safety impact.
  • Impact of the workplace on obesity.
  • Social stressors and psychosocial work factors.
  • Recommendations for lifestyle modification interventions.
  • Pharmacotherapy recommendations.
  • Surgical interventions and emerging invasive therapies.
  • Recommendations for employers about obesity treatment and prevention.
  • Research gaps concerning obesity in the workplace.

Worksite Wellness professionals can use this information to:

  • Compare their own approaches to obesity with the ACOEM recommendations.
  • Educate management and employees about the economic and productivity costs of obesity.
  • Utilize these recommendations to help formulate organizational and wellness strategies.
  • Formulate organizational perspectives about obesity and overweight issues in their workforce.

In summary, this is an authoritative and recent source of information and consensus about the major problem of obesity among working Americans and provides summary information and recommendations that are useful for worksite wellness professionals.

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