Tom Harte: Hi! I am Tom Harte, Board Member of the National Association of Health Underwriters. Today I am discussing the high cost of obesity in this country and how employ wellness programs are helping fight this epidemic.
Obesity is on the rise; with two in three adults in the United States, categorized as either obese or overweight and one of five American children suffering from the same condition. Being overweight or obese makes people more likely to develop a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Did you know that less than 50% of Americans eat the daily recommended number of fruits and vegetables and less than 25% get the recommended amounts of exercise? The consequence of these choices cost taxpayers money, hurt business productivity and diminish the quality of life for millions of Americans.
Inactive lifestyles and poor eating habits are much of the reason our nation's cost of health care now exceeds $2 trillion. These medical cost directly affect all of us; from employers to taxpayers to American families. But the drastic changes to diet and exercise needed to improve this condition aren't easy. It requires behavioral and lifestyle changes that take self-discipline and determination as well as education and resources to understand how to make these changes safely.
Employers have vested interest in understanding the connection between wellness and lower insurance premiums. Obesity alone costs US companies $13 billion annually and these workers have 36% higher medical costs than fit employees. Employers that invest in employee health are making a sound investment.
A multitude of studies show a return of $3 for every dollar invested and the good news is employees want to improve their health and participation in employer-sponsored bombs programs is increasing, as employees take personal steps to make a difference in the cost of health care.