Weight Management in US Occupational Settings
- LAST REVIEWED: 13 June 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0109
- LAST REVIEWED: 13 June 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0109
Workplaces offer a unique opportunity to promote health behavior change and the adoption of healthier lifestyles. Workplace programs can benefit from characteristics of the environment. The population is relatively stable, workers interact with each other in close proximity on a regular basis, and some policies can be more easily implemented in worksite settings than in community settings. Additionally, the burden of illness is shared by employers and employees, providing an impetus for both policy and behavior change. Couple this with studies showing that two-thirds of the employees in the United States are overweight or obese, costing US business $73 billion annually, and it is understandable that work organizations have become interested in offering weight management programs for their employees. In the Guide to Community Preventive Services, the US Task Force for Community Preventive Services recommends worksite programs that improve diet and physical activity behaviors. This article provides an overview of weight management efforts in occupational settings. It provides evidence of the magnitude of the problem in employed populations, documentation of the cost to organizations, and efforts by private and public organizations to support worksite programs, as well as a summary of the effectiveness of various strategies. Although modification of eating behaviors and physical activity form the foundation for most weight management efforts, this bibliography focuses on those sources that are predominately directed at weight management as the primary outcome.
Obesity’s Prevalence and Impact on Workplaces
A number of studies document the prevalence of overweight and obesity in worksite populations, demonstrate the impact of obesity on health and organizational outcomes, and document the extent of obesity-related worksite health promotion programs being offered in organizations. Gu, et al. 2014 and Laukhaupt, et al. 2014 document the prevalence of obesity by occupation and industry and the association with specific work-related factors. Gable, et al. 2009 demonstrates the levels of interest that obesity programs are generating for both employers and employees. Schulte, et al. 2006 examines the impact of obesity on traditional health and safety outcomes, while Pollack, et al. 2007 links obesity to increased rates of traumatic injury on the job. The idea of an integrative perspective that integrates multiple departments in worksites, particularly worksite health promotion and occupational safety and health, fits nicely with obesity, as it impacts both safety and health promotion outcomes. Chapman 2004 and Heinen and Darling 2009 highlight initiatives that organizations have undertaken, including individual programs, environmental changes, and health benefit plan modifications. And finally, Carnethon, et al. 2009 provides the policy statement from the American Heart Association on worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention. These papers emphasize the impact of obesity on workplaces and possible solutions being tried by workplaces.
Carnethon, M., L. P. Whitsel, B. A. Franklin, et al. 2009. Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: A policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation 120:1725–1741.
Although not specific to weight management, the policy statement from the American Heart Association on worksite wellness programs for CVD prevention is very relevant, as healthy eating and physical activity are cornerstones of CVD prevention. The statement also has specific suggestions for interventions that include individual behavior change, environmental strategies, policies, and incentives that are relevant to all behaviors.
Chapman, L. S. 2004. Reducing obesity in work organizations. American Journal of Health Promotion 19.Suppl. 1: S1–S8.
Chapman provides an overview of the obesity problem in the workplace. He discusses legal and human resource issues such as employment, wages and benefits, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Most importantly, he includes an extensive list of options for responding to the obesity problem, ranging from creating a supportive culture for healthy body weight to individual behavior change strategies.
Gable, J. R., H. Whitmore, J. Pickreign, et al. 2009. Obesity in the workplace: Current programs and attitudes among employers and employees. Health Affairs 28:46–56.
Gable and colleagues use a national survey to paint a picture of the prevalence of obesity programs and services that are offered by work organizations and examine worker attitudes about offering programs and services as part of the organization’s health insurance coverage. This is particularly relevant information during the current health-care reform discussions.
Gu, J. K., L. E. Charles, K. M. Bang, et al. 2014. Prevalence of obesity by occupation among US workers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 56.5: 516–528.
This study provides a detailed examination of the prevalence of obesity by occupation and examines these changes over time. This clearly documents the increase in obesity levels of US workers over time and the higher prevalence in certain, mostly blue-collar, occupations, although the prevalence significantly increased during this time in white-collar occupations but not blue-collar occupations.
Heinen, L., and H. Darling. 2009. Addressing obesity in the workplace: The role of employers. Milbank Quarterly 87.1: 101–122.
Heinen and Darling discuss obesity in the workplace from the employer’s perspective. They highlight current initiatives that worksites have undertaken to limit the impact of obesity, including health benefit design and environmental, cultural, and community approaches. They conclude with case studies from four organizations that demonstrate these approaches.
Laukhaupt, S. E., M. A. Cohen, J. Li, and G. M. Calvert. 2014. Prevalence of obesity in U.S. workers and associations with occupational factors. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 46.3: 237–248.
This paper uses data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey to document the prevalence of obesity in US workers by industry classification. It further documents obesity levels by workweek length, work schedule, work arrangement, presence of hostile work environment, and perception of job insecurity and work-family balance. This study establishes the relationship between various work-related factors and obesity, which provides an argument for organizational-level interventions targeting the work environment.
Pollack, K. M., G. S. Sorock, M. D. Slade, et al. 2007. Association between body mass index and acute traumatic workplace injury in hourly manufacturing employees. American Journal of Epidemiology 166.2: 204–211.
This study documents an increase in traumatic workplace injury in obese manufacturing workers. This provides evidence to employers that obese workers are up to twice as likely to be injured as non-obese workers. Obesity is one issue that cuts across traditional organizational departments (i.e., safety and health, medical, human resources, Workplace Health Promotion [WHP]).
Schulte, P. A., G. R. Wagner, A. Ostry, et al. 2006. Work, obesity, and occupational safety and health. American Journal of Public Health 97.3: 428–436.
This manuscript provides an excellent overview of the impact of obesity on occupational safety and health. Authors discuss the impact of obesity on vibration-induced injury, work-related asthma, chemical immunomodulation, musculoskeletal disorders, neurotoxicity, cancer, and stress-induced responses. They provide models for explaining the interrelated nature of obesity and work, and discuss legal, social, and ethical issues surrounding safety initiatives organizations may undertake.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Access to Health Care
- Action Research
- Active Aging
- Active Living
- Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior in the United States
- Advocacy, Public Health
- Agricultural Safety and Public Health
- Air Quality: Health Effects
- Air Quality: Indoor Health Effects
- Alcohol Availability and Violence
- Alternative Research Designs
- Ambient Air Quality Standards and Guidelines
- American Perspectives on Chronic Disease and Control
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
- Asthma in Children
- Attachment as a Health Determinant
- Behavior Change Theory in Health Education and Promotion
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
- Bicycling and Cycling Safety
- Birth and Death Registration
- Birth Cohort Studies
- Board of Health
- Built Environment and Health, The
- Business and Corporate Practices
- Cancer Communication Strategies in North America
- Cancer Prevention
- Cancer Screening
- Capacity Building
- Capacity Building for NCDs in LMICs
- Capacity-Building for Applied Public Health in LMIC: A US ...
- Cardiovascular Health and Disease
- Child Maltreatment
- Children, Air Pollution and
- Children, Injury Risk-Taking Behaviors in
- Children, Obesity in
- Citizen Advisory Boards
- Climate Change and Human Health
- Climate Change: Institutional Response
- Clinical Preventive Medicine
- Community Air Pollution
- Community Development
- Community Gardens
- Community Health Assessment
- Community Partnerships and Coalitions
- Community-Based Participatory Research
- Complexity and Systems Theory
- Cultural Safety
- Culture and Public Health
- Definition of Health
- Dental Public Health
- Design and Health
- Dietary Guidelines
- Directions in Global Public Health Graduate Education
- Ecological Approaches
- Enabling Factors
- Environmental Laws
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Ethics of Public Health
- Evidence-Based Pediatric Dentistry
- Evidence-Based Public Health Practice
- Family Planning Services and Birth Control
- Food Safety
- Food Security and Food Banks
- Food Systems
- Frail Elderly
- Functional Literacy
- Genomics, Public Health
- Geographic Information Systems
- Geography and Health
- Global Health
- Global Health Diplomacy
- Global Health Promotion
- Guide to Community Preventive Services, The
- Health Administration
- Health Communication
- Health Disparities
- Health Education
- Health Impact Assessment
- Health in All Policies
- Health in All Policies in European Countries
- Health Literacy
- Health Literacy and Non-Communicable Diseases
- Health Measurement Scales
- Health Planning
- Health Promoting Hospitals
- Health Promotion
- Health Promotion Foundations
- Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
- Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
- Healthy People Initiative
- Hepatitis C
- High Risk Prevention Strategies
- Human Rights, Health and
- Immigrant Populations
- Immunization and Pneumococcal Infection
- Indigenous Peoples, Public Health and
- Indigenous Populations of North America, Australasia, and ...
- Indoor Air Quality Guidelines
- Internet Applications in Promoting Health Behavior
- Intersectoral Strategies in Low - Middle Income Countries ...
- Justice, Social
- Knowledge Translation and Exchange
- Knowledge Utilization and Exchange
- Law of Public Health in the United States
- Media Advocacy
- Mental Health
- Mental Health Promotion
- Migrant Health
- Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention
- Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
- National Association of Local Boards of Health
- National Public Health Institutions
- Needs Assessment
- Needs Assessments in International Disasters and Emergenci...
- Obesity Prevention
- Occupational Cancers
- Occupational Exposure to Benzene
- Occupational Exposure to Erionite
- Occupational Safety and Health
- Oral Health Equity for Minority Populations in the United ...
- Ottawa Charter
- Parenting and Work
- Parenting Skills and Capacity
- Participatory Action Research
- Patient Decision Making
- Pesticide Exposure and Pesticide Health Effects
- Physical Activity and Exercise
- Physical Activity Promotion
- Polio Eradication in Pakistan
- Population Aging
- Population Determinants of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages
- Population Health Objectives and Targets
- Precautionary Principle
- Prenatal Health
- Program Evaluation in American Health Education
- Program Planning and Evaluation
- Public Health, History of
- Public Health Surveillance
- Public-Private Partnerships in Public Health Research and ...
- Public-Private Partnerships to Prevent and Manage Obesity ...
- Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment
- Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies
- Randomized Controlled Trials
- Real World Evaluation Strategies
- Reducing Obesity-Related Health Disparities in Hispanic an...
- Research Integrity in Public Health
- Resilient Health Systems
- Rural Health in the United States
- Safety, Patient
- School Health Programs in the Pacific Region
- Sex Education in HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Skin Cancer Prevention
- Smoking Cessation
- Social Determinants of Health
- Social Epidemiology
- Social Marketing
- Statistics in Public Health
- STI Networks, Patterns, and Control Strategies
- Systems in the United States, Public Health
- Systems Modeling and Big Data for Non-Communicable Disease...
- Systems Theory in Public Health
- Traditional, Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative M...
- Translation of Science to Practice and Policy
- Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Tuberculosis among Adults and the Determinants of Health
- Unintentional Injury Prevention
- Urban Health
- Vaccine Hesitancy
- Violence Prevention
- Water Quality
- Water Quality and Water-Related Disease
- Weight Management in US Occupational Settings
- Welfare States, Public Health and Health Inequalities
- Worksite Health Promotion
- World Health Organization (WHO)