How Benefits Communications Can Help the Fight Against Obesity

The story is getting scarier and scarier with each study.

And yet, little is changing. Obesity rates continue to increase for all Americans to the point where doctors are witnessing unprecedented health problems in children.

HBO recently aired a four-part documentary series called The Weight of the Nation, which examined the consequences, choices and challenges facing a nation that is eating itself to death. It is a must-see for anyone still in the dark about how obesity has changed the U.S. for the worse.

Among the statistics highlighted in Part One:

  • 68.8 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.
  • Currently, more than 20 percent of 2 to 5-year-olds are either overweight or obese.
  • Of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates, nine rank among our nation’s poorest.

The list goes on and on.

Benefits communication can help

As an employer, you are in a unique position to make a difference in the lives of your employees and their families. You’ve invested a lot in providing great wellness benefits. Those nutrition, fitness and coaching programs may be just the resources and support your employees and their families need to start making a change.

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You just need to tell them about it. (And you can do it in a way that is empowering, not shaming.)

Here are a few benefits communication ideas to help you tie in your wellness programs with the almost-universal goal to lose weight.

  • The CDC listed obesity as one of its seven public health priorities. This is a “winnable battle” that can start at the office with programs you may already have.
  • No matter how you choose to use your wellness programs, you must engage your employees. They’ve got to be interested to participate, or the program will fail.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of community. You are more likely to have success when you recognize that emotions are just as powerful a motivator as anything else.
  • This may be the first generation of children who do not outlive their parents. As an employer, there are so many reasons to care. You may have more tools than you think to help parents support their obese children.
  • Anyone who needs to lose weight first needs to know their current health state. Biometric screenings are sources of invaluable information that can help employees live healthier lives, while potentially saving them money in health care costs. Learn how to do it right, and you can start helping people make real changes.

There are serious repercussions if we continue to leave obesity rates unchecked. Employers have an incredible opportunity to play an unprecedented role in reversing that course. Let’s make it happen!

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Jennifer Benz is Chief Strategist and Founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based consultancy that focuses on custom, comprehensive benefits and HR communications services. Jen is an active member of the Council for Communication Management, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Northern California Human Resources Association and Women in Consulting. Contact her at jen@benzcommunications.com.

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