As we know, an obesity epidemic has struck this country, with nearly 26% of American adults being considered obese and with forty five states coming in heavier this year than in 2005. While not all obese people will suffer ill effects from being overweight, some will, and these problems can cost employers in lost sick days and health related medical expenses. In fact, the CDC found that $75 billion dollars went out for obesity attributed expenses in the United States in 2003.
Being obese is not the only health related issue companies are currently trying to tackle. Smoking is another health-related issue that some companies have decided to address.
What is the company’s stake in all of this? Money and time, of course. The thought: Make people healthy and they will show up more, work harder and live longer. They will also potentially run up fewer health-related expenses if they are living a healthier lifestyle.
I’ve written before about walking and exercise programs that are being taken into the companies around the states to get people out and active.
Yet this is not the only thing that companies are doing to assure their employees are as healthy as can be.
Take Lincoln Industries. CEO Marc LeBaron forbids smoking on the grounds and offers health seminars. Employees who take advantage of going to the gym and participating in health-related programs receive incentives such as monthly discounts on health insurance and cash rewards (read more here).
USAA, a San Antonio company, also took the no smoking approach back in 2004. At the same time they offered a wellness benefit to those who wanted to stop smoking. This could be used on over the counter products or hypnosis-whatever would help the employee to stamp out the smokes.
Of course, not all people are happy about these changes. Some state that companies who insist their employees get healthy are being discriminatory. What if a person is unable to lose weight? Or, what if a company insists that employees participate in some type of wellness program to receive certain benefits but has on staff a person who is unable to participate due to a disability or other issue?
I’m betting we will see more and more about this issue in the months and years to come. While some people will applaud the efforts being made by businesses who are trying to get their employees as healthy as possible other people will see this as an invasion of privacy.
Any comments? I’d love to hear them!