- Seventy-eight percent of Houston hospital employees are overweight or obese, Healthcare Finance News reports, citing a recent survey.
- In 2012, the University of Texas Health Science Center asked 924 non-physician employees about their diet and health status and found a strong association between weight and lifestyle choices. For example, obese workers ate more high-calorie foods and were less active.
- The survey also revealed dissatisfaction with hospital wellness initiatives, with 79% saying they were unhappy with the program at their facility. Obese employees had been the most dissatisfied.
One reason for the high obesity rate in the survey could be the “nurture factor”—the idea that caregivers neglect their own health because they are so focused on the health and comfort of others.
“It is troubling because these are hospital employees active in the workplace and we need them to be healthy,” Shreela Sharma, lead author and associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health, said in a statement.
Employee wellness is more than a health issue. Obesity and other preventable medical conditions can lead to missed days and less engagement at work. Hospitals are fighting back with wellness programs that encourage and reward healthy behaviors. Cleveland Clinic, for example, offers programs for weight reduction and smoking cessation. Last year, the health system also began randomly testing workers for drugs. Those testing positive can enroll in programs to help them deal with addiction.
With the shift to value-based payment models, employers are starting to apply the principles of behavioral economics to wellness initiatives. For example, behavioral economics suggests a stronger response to behavior changes that are rewarded immediately. They also react more when incentives are framed as losses rather than gains.
There are steps employers can take to boost participation in workplace wellness programs, career coach Dana Manciagli wrote in The Business Journals. Among them are prioritizing wellness, rewarding participation, incorporating technology and including a wider array of program offerings.