According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes affects 25.8 million people, with approximately 90% of all diabetes cases classified as type 2 diabetes. Data indicates that 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese (defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher).
The fact is that lifestyle modification – including weight loss and increase in activity – can slow the progression of the disease and improve blood sugar levels. But how can an HR professional tackle sensitive issues like weight loss or physical activity? A good place to start is creating a supportive work environment – one that offers the resources needed to motivate employees to take control over their health.
“Workplace programs that support activity management, nutrition management and lifestyle behavior change can help employees achieve a healthy and active lifestyle at work and in their everyday lives,” said Colin Watts, President of Weight Watchers Health Solutions.”
Encourage people to take a NEAT break
Research shows that regular activity can help reduce blood sugar levels and improve overall health. But regular activity doesn’t always mean you have to hit the gym. For example, Dr. James Levine, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic, advocates incorporating more NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) activity into the workday, which could include standing up more often, walking around to meet with colleagues in person, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. While you may not be able to offer everyone a treadmill desk, you can encourage employees to use their breaks to ramp up NEAT activities.
Makeover your vending options
Vending machines are integral to many workplaces. When was the last time you took a closer look at the snack options in the machines in your office? If the answer is “never,” now is the perfect time to consider a vending machine makeover, especially given pending legislation that could require virtually all vending machines to post nutritional facts starting in 2015. A lot has changed since the first U.S. vending machine dispensed gum to train passengers in New York City. New technology is enabling more fresh offerings, like fruit or even salads.
Investigate other resources available
Successful programs are those that teach you healthy habits that can be followed wherever you are. The work environment is a start, but it’s just a piece of the entire picture – it’s about how employees apply healthy behaviors in their everyday lives. There is an emerging category of programs on the “care continuum” that can complement employee wellness and disease management programs you might already have in place. For example, Weight Watchers for Diabetes is a new weight management program that combines medical nutrition therapy with the scientifically proven Weight Watchers approach and can strategically fit with a company’s existing diabetes disease management programs, says Jan Veliko, who is a registered nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator and clinical director of the Weight Watchers for Diabetes offering. What makes the program unique is that it provides employees with type 2 diabetes the ability to get personalized coaching from a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). The CDEs work one-on-one with employees to create an individualized plan that is built around personal habits – from eating patterns to medications to physical activity. And once the plan is in place, the CDE is available to offer support and ongoing counsel via email or phone.
In the grand scheme, the investments we make to create a supportive work environment and provide tools and knowledge that can be used beyond the office setting have a huge potential return on investment – especially when you think about the tremendous medical costs associated with diabetes and its complications.
What are you doing to support employee health in your workplace?
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