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April 15, 2008
Report: Obesity Costs Employers $45 Billion Per Year

Obese employees cost U.S. private employers an estimated $45 billion annually in medical expenditures and productivity losses, according to a report by the Conference Board.

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"Employers need to realize that obesity is not solely a health and wellness issue," says Labor Economist Linda Barrington, research director of the Conference Board Management Excellence Program and co-author of the report. "Employees' obesity-related health problems in the United States are costing companies billions of dollars each year in medical coverage and absenteeism. Employers need to pay attention to their workers' weights, for the good of the bottom line, as well as the good of the employees and of society."

The authors of the report say that obesity is associated with a 36-percent increase in spending on healthcare services, more than smoking or problem drinking.

The report also finds that more than 40 percent of U.S. companies have implemented obesity-reduction programs, and 24 percent more said they plan to do so in 2008.

The report includes three case studies:

  • Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), a large self-insured utility with high BMI and low turnover, targets obesity as a major plank in its multifaceted wellness initiatives.
  • H-E-B, a Texas-based retail chain, believes retail's high turnover can make it all the more important to catch employees, from checkout clerks to executives, under the wellness umbrella.
  • Aetna Inc. says that adding incentives increased participation in its wellness programs and produced major savings.

More information on the report, Weights & Measures: What Employers Should Know about Obesity, can he found here.

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