Welcome to Weighing In, the STOP Obesity Alliance blog – a new addition to our redesigned Web site.

This blog is a forum developed to facilitate discussion on key topics related to obesity and obesity-related diseases. And there are many topics to discuss!

Obesity continues to plague our nation and increasingly is the gateway to chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. Patients, health care providers, employers, labor, government and insurance providers will all continue to be affected by the tremendous burden of this epidemic. As the STOP Obesity Alliance and its Steering Committee members continue our collaboration on efforts to take on this health crisis, we will take advantage of this forum to have an open dialogue with all of you.

Key contributors to Weighing In are STOP Obesity Alliance Steering Committee members, Christine Ferguson, the STOP Obesity Alliance Director and Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the Health and Wellness Chairperson of the Alliance.

Obesity GPS: A Guide for Policy and Program Solutions

The STOP Obesity Alliance Health & Wellness Chairperson, 17th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona, facilitated a panel discussion for the launch of the Obesity GPS - featuring the Alliance's Director, Christine Ferguson, the American Medical Group Association's Julie Sanderson-Austin, and the American Heart Association's Dr. John Ring.

Blog: Weighing In
Leading the Charge for a Healthier Work Force

By Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles

Healthcare reform is one of the hottest issues in the nation.  And corporations across the US – large and small – are on the front line of this issue, footing the bill for increased healthcare costs, which continue to rise 10 percent annually.  According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, employers are absorbing 70-80 percent of these increases. 

Though the situation may seem bleak, the private sector has a unique opportunity to create a sustainable solution to our nation’s healthcare woes and the time to act is now.  The majority of healthcare costs impacting employers and employees are due to preventable chronic diseases.  In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the vast majority of chronic diseases, including 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of type-2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancers, can be prevented through increased physical activity, healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco. 

This September, Virgin HealthMiles is excited to partner with the STOP Obesity Alliance for National Employee Wellness Month.  This month-long initiative spotlights the critical role employers play in supporting healthy employee behaviors and preventing the onset of chronic conditions that are the primary drivers of our nation’s soaring healthcare costs.

Why does wellness in the workplace matter?  Research points to the fact that employers and employees agree the workplace is an appropriate environment for supporting weight loss efforts and helping curb the toll of preventable chronic diseases.   In fact, a recent New England Journal of Medicine study shows that social ties directly influence obesity and health.  Most Americans spend a third of their weekdays at work, often spending more waking hours with colleagues than friends and family.  If a workplace is focused as a community on becoming more active and healthy, it is likely more employees will be inspired to be involved in a wellness initiative then they would on their own. 

More than 60 companies across the United States and more than 17,000 of their employees are participating in the inaugural year of National Employee Wellness Month.  These companies get it. They know the importance of prevention and the value of a healthy workforce.  They’re creative about supporting healthy workplaces, too.  In some cases, companies are pitting executives against staff in friendly competitions to get people walking more.  One employee ascended to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, challenging his colleagues back home to get active at lower altitudes. Some employees get paid for being more active, either in the form of cash, lower healthcare premiums, or sometimes both. Others companies have leveraged their healthy workforce to negotiate lower premiums and are now on the path to bringing healthcare costs down.

In honor of National Employee Wellness Month, we invite you to explore the wealth of resources at www.nationalemployeewellnessmonth.com, and we encourage you to share your comments and rally your colleagues to make wellness a workplace priority.  Use this month to get out and move a little more, whether it’s skipping the bus and walking to work, joining your colleagues at lunch for a power walk, or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  Together we can make a difference in healthcare reform without waiting for a federal rescue plan.

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