Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Employers Offer Incentives to Lose Weight

I found this article to be a bit disturbing (click HERE for link).

Apparently a local firm is offering incentives to lose weight because they think it will lower their health care costs. There are a few things that bother me about this kind of program:

  • There is no evidence that it will actually lower their health care costs. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that there is a likelihood that this sort of program could even raise a firm's health care costs. There are a lot of ways to lose weight and not all of them are healthy. In fact, most of them are not. Even the more healthy weight loss programs can put a lot of stress on a person's body which is only worth it if the person maintains their weight loss. There is solid evidence that shows that around 95% of people who lose weight do not keep it off. So really, this sort of program is actually encouraging something harmful.

  • I know this will sound silly but it almost doesnt seem fair to those people who are already very fit. What if you dont need to lose 25 pounds, reduce body weight by 15 percent or reduce body fat by 15 percent?

  • This is just another example of our culture's hatred of fatness. It is clear that this company probably would rather not have fat employees. Maybe this is an alternative to simply firing overweight employees? Whenever I read stories like this, I just think that it is soooo lucky for me that weight is a protected employment class in Michigan.

Now, I can understand why an employer might want to reduce health care costs and also why they might want to encourage healthy lifestyles among their employees. But it seems to me that there are better ways to go about this. I would suggest that a firm who *really* wanted to improve their employee's health go about it by actually encouraging healthy BEHAVIORS rather than encouraging something like weight loss which may or may not be a result of healthy behaviors. Encouraging healthy behaviors probably would result in some or many employees losing weight but, more importantly, it would probably actually improve their health. So this is what I would suggest an employer do if they really wanted to encourage healthy employees.

  • Provide showers at work. That way people could be encouraged to walk or ride their bikes to work.

  • Provide bike racks in a sheltered and secure place.

  • Build an excercise room onsite or give employees free memberships to a local health club.

  • Heck, *pay* them to excercise. Give everyone an extra half hour break once a day to take a walk (the people who dont want to walk wouldnt get the break). Just doing that would probably make a huge difference.

Isnt it too bad that I dont rule the world? ;)


E-Speed said...

:) I wish my office had showers. I would definitely be more encouraged to ride my bike to work or run during lunch.

Anonymous said...

cilvillians who work for the military are paid 4 hours a week to work out. (gyms are on base). Its a great program, but i hate the idea of someone looking over my shoulder and monitering my fitness level.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, if they offered incentives for healthy lifestyle changes as opposed to 'weight loss' it would bring the HEALTH into the factor and in theory weight loss would probably follow.
A gym at work would be soooo awesome!! (back in the days when i worked outside the house)

Anonymous said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.