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BHWA says employers can sway the obesity crisis

19% of Brits would wear their gym gear to work

As recent news suggests that a fifth of the world’s population will be obese by 2025, health initiative Better Health at Work Alliance advises employers that they have the power to influence the obesity crisis and it’s in their best interests to act.

According to Majid Ezzati from Imperial College, who led the research, smart food policies and improved healthcare training can help us to avoid an “epidemic of severe obesity”. However, with the potential impact such an epidemic would make to any workforce, Better Health at Work Alliance (BHWA) cautions that employers should not remain indifferent to the power of their influence.

BHWA is an industry-led advice body recently launched to make finding health at work guidance straightforward for employers.

The alliance has advised that straightforward steps an organisation should be looking at include access to healthy food options, promoting an active workplace, providing information on being healthy and incentivising staff to follow it, or making adjustments to the work environment that encourage behavioural change such as standing desks, walking clubs, or bike racks.

Charlotte Cross, Director of BHWA, says of the recent news: “Obesity is relevant to all employers and can impact the bottom line of any organisation through obvious health ramifications and associated productivity and performance issues. As the obesity problem grows, employers will inevitably face more of these challenges.

“While simple measures can and should play an important part in any employers approach, the diversity of our expert membership shows us that employers have access to a significant range of evidence-based solutions from workplace health specialists ready and willing to help and the power to make an impact is in their hands. We urge all organisations to get involved and sway this issue, which has huge ramifications for the UK working population.”

Raising the link to dementia, one of the lesser known health ramifications of obesity and another serious issue for employers, John Picken, Managing Director of CANTAB Corporate Health, a BHWA founder member says: “Worldwide clinical research has shown that obesity in mid-life plays a considerable role in cognitive impairment, including preclinical dementia symptoms and dementia. Giving employees the chance to measure their cognitive health as well as their physical health will help them manage this life-threatening but potentially reversible health risk.”

Mark Braithwaite, Managing Director of Gipping Occupational health, another Founder of the alliance also comments: “When dealing with obesity, or any other health taboo, it is key to ensure consistency of response throughout the organisation so that no individual feels inappropriately ‘singled out’.

“Providing access to impartial advice and guidance from a qualified health professional, such as an OH Advisor, enables employees to talk openly, learn and improve management of their own health and ultimately take responsibility, whilst equally providing support to the employer in working towards a positive outcome.”

The Better Health at Work Alliance is the UK workplace health industry’s first broadly inclusive membership body, launched in February 2015 and led by Director Charlotte Cross. Offering access to solutions, information, and guidance via a simple one-stop website, users will be able to tap into expert knowledge through free resources including an ‘Ask the Expert’ forum, collaborative wikis and guides, BHWA brings together a wide range of leading workplace health specialists and already has the endorsement of over 30 key industry organisations.