Employers need to take on obesity

Ashley Milne-Tyte Apr 9, 2008
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Employers need to take on obesity

Ashley Milne-Tyte Apr 9, 2008
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Scott Jagow: You’ve heard it many times — Americans are fatter than ever. At least 15 percent of the population of every state is clinically obese. It’s a concern for doctors, and it seems for employers too. Today, the Conference Board releases findings on how obesity actually affects the bottom line. Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.


Ashley Milne-Tyte: The Conference Board says obesity costs the private sector around $45 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity. But Linda Barrington, a labor economist with the group, says most businesses don’t see obesity as a liability.

Linda Barrington: What we haven’t seen is companies confronting weight as a major contributing factor to negative health effects.

To trim the fat off a chubby staff, Barrington says, employers have to use a carrot, not a stick, or they could be in legal trouble. She says some companies use financial incentives to keep workers on a weight-loss track. Others have had success with simpler tactics.

Barrington: A lot of companies have cafeterias, so why not just put a surcharge on the unhealthy foods?

And leave the fruits and yogurt subsidized. And after lunch, she says, you could have that sales meeting while taking a walk around the block.

I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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