UBP blog

09/10/2009

Face your stuff or stuff your face. Here’s where so many workplace wellness programs are “missing the boat”

When someone mentions the term “workplace wellness program”, what are the first things that come to mind?

Many people would start off by naming some common services that almost all traditional programs have (i.e. weight management and smoke cessation).

There’s a lot of research out there showing us that these services are a good thing. Study after study reveals that obesity and smoking both lead to higher levels of absenteeism, “presenteeism” (you know, when someone is there are work but isn’t 100 percent “there”) and other productivity-related cost issues in a workplace. It’s plain to see why employers put programs with these services into place: they improve the bottom line.

Wellness programs that improve the bottom line are definitely not a bad thing, and they’re easy to keep around. All you’ll have to do is show that they produce a quantifiable return on investment (ROI) and management will give you the green light to keep them.

But, the question that you’ll need to ask now is this one, are traditional wellness programs really doing their job of promoting total workplace wellness?

Are they addressing the root causes for employees “stuffing their faces” with food, drugs, alcohol, etc. or are they just addressing the symptoms (i.e. smoking, obesity, substance abuse) once employees faces have already been “stuffed”?

To answer these questions we’ll need to take a deeper look at what exactly total wellness is, and where traditional wellness programs that focus solely on physical health issues fall short.

What is total wellness?

Total wellness is a state of being made up of three different components, Physical, Mental and Spiritual wellness. Let’s leave the spirits out of this blog and focus on mental wellness, our emotional wellness.

Our emotional wellness is what helps us to stay on the right track towards physical health. When employees are emotionally well, they are better able to make healthy lifestyle choices and steer clear from “stuffing their faces” with substances and habits that compromise their physical health.  

Step #1 to total wellness, Know Your Health Plan:

When employees know their health plans, they not only know about the service available to them for their physical health, they also know where to go for the mental health needs of themselves and their families.

One great thing that you can do in your workplace to help employees out with the mental health component of total wellness is to host a lecture series on mental health topics (i.e. eating disorders (includes both overeating and under-eating), alcoholism, substance abuse, etc.) that employees may attend to learn what to do if they, a co-worker or a family member at home are dealing with these issues. Also, the lecturers could let them know where they can go to for help.

Knowing your plan is only the beginning:

Knowing your health plan is just the first step to total wellness in your workplace. To help employers achieve total “wellness workplaces”, Universal Benefit Plans has created our proprietary 13 steps to total wellness. To get your very own 13 steps to total wellness plan, give us a call at 617-859-1777 or fill out a Contact Form on our website, www.universalbenefitplans.com

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09/02/2009

This is your brain on obesity

Filed under: Wellness — ubpblogger @ 8:18 am
Tags: , ,

Most of us remember the Partnership for a Drug Free America’s fried egg commercial and its tagline this is your brain; this is your brain on drugs.” The brain in this commercial obviously looked like a fried egg and communicated the dangers of drug abuse. If you abuse drugs it will “fry” your brain.

A similar philosophy could be applied to obesity in light of recent findings from a UCLA study.

Researchers conducted brain scans of 94 individuals in their 70s and found that:

  • Obese people had 8 percent less brain tissue than normal weight individuals and their brains appeared 16 years older than those of their normal weight counterparts.
  • Overweight people had 4 percent less brain tissue than normal weight individuals and their brains appeared 8 years older than those of their normal weight counterparts.

From these findings you can see that your brain on obesity would look like something that is old and shrunken, possibly like an egg that has been overcooked.

What this means for employers:

The study’s findings from older adults in their 70s are actually fairly relevant to today’s workplaces (much more so than they were in the past). That’s because number of adults over 65 years old is growing at a faster rate than our nation’s overall population and many people are not retiring until their 70s (or even 80s).

Also, aging of the brain doesn’t happen overnight. One can speculate that if a doctor did brain scans of obese, overweight and normal weight people in their 40s and 50s, the overweight and obese people would have already lost noticeably more brain tissue on average than their normal weight counterparts.

As you can see, if you want your employees to stay at their best and brightest through all the years of their careers, it’s vital for them to make healthy lifestyle choices starting now.

Study also links obesity to higher risk of Alzheimer’s:

According to UCLA professor of neurology Paul Thompson, the senior author of this study, the major losses in brain tissue experienced by obese (and even overweight) people put them at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

This is bad news for many of us, especially in light of the fact that according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 34 percent of U.S. adults were obese as early as 2004 (and roughly 34% of adults were overweight).

 Reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s:

The good news however is that we all have a way to decrease our risk of Alzheimer’s. We can do this by keeping a good diet (and staying away from processed foods), staying fit and taking all other proactive measures for weight control.

 HR Professionals, do you want to help your employees reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s Disease at little cost to your company?

If your answer is “yes”, you should consider putting into place a workplace wellness program with quarterly Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings and employee access to coaching on proper nutrition and fitness, as well as weight loss support groups for workers who want to lose weight (and reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s) together.

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