Adding Food and Fitness to Worksite Wellness

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Worksite wellness programs that address food and fitness can help employees lose weight. Comprehensive and structured programs seem to have a bigger impact on weight than narrow or unstructured programs. Worksite wellness programs should take a total view of worker health, coordinating health promotion efforts with occupational health.

Here is a summary of obesity prevention recommendations for worksite wellness programs, based on a review of expert guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Wellness Council of America, and others. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list and the links to other resources.

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Read and print the complete list of worksite obesity prevention recommendations.

Incorporate nutrition/healthy eating and physical activity into worksite wellness and health promotion programs (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

  • Focus on nutrition behaviors, physical activity behaviors, or both (8)
  • Use educational, behavioral counseling, or environmental change strategies, or a combination of the three (8)
  • Use multi–component, more intensive, or more structured programs for greater impact (8)
Offer weight management programs or incorporate weight management into worksite wellness and health promotion programs (1,3,4,5,9)
Offer health screenings, such as BMI screenings or health risk assessments (1,9)
Design effective worksite wellness programs by

  • Taking an integrated approach to worker health that addresses occupational health and safety as well as health promotion (1,10,11)
  • Obtaining senior management support (5,7)
  • Obtaining support from middle managers and supervisors (11)
  • Tailoring programs based on employees’ needs and preferences (1,7)
  • Monitoring and evaluating programs’ success (1,5,7)
  • Addressing needs of all employees, regardless of gender, age, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, job type, or physical or intellectual capacity (1,5)
  • Collaborating with multiple stakeholders (academia, nonprofits, government, professional organizations, employees, insurance providers, food distributors) (4,7,9)

Worksite Wellness Programs—Source List

1. Carnethon M, Whitsel LP, Franklin BA, et al. Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. CirculationOpens in New Window. 2009;120:1725–41.

2. Task Force on Community Preventive Services. A recommendation to improve employee weight status through worksite health promotion programs targeting nutrition, physical activity, or both. Am J Prev MedOpens in New Window. 2009;37:358–9.

3. Levi J, Vinter S, St. Laurent R, Segal LM. F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in AmericaOpens in New Window2008: Trust for America’s Health; 2008.

4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit NationOpens in New Window. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2010.

5. Wellness Council of America. WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks of Success: Developing Results–Oriented Wellness Programs One Company At a Time. Absolute Advantage: The Workplace Wellness MagazineOpens in New Window. 2006.

6. World Health Organization. The Challenge of Obesity in the WHO European Region and the Strategies for ResponseOpens in New Window: World Health Organization; 2007.

7. World Health Organization WEF. Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases in the Workplace through Diet and Physical ActivityOpens in New Window: WHO/World Economic Forum Report of a Joint Event; 2008.

8. Anderson LM, Quinn TA, Glanz K, et al. The effectiveness of worksite nutrition and physical activity interventions for controlling employee overweight and obesity: a systematic review. Am J Prev MedOpens in New Window. 2009;37:340–57.

9. National Governors Association. Creating Healthy States: Actions for GovernorsOpens in New Window. 2005. Accessed February 2, 2012.

10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Total Worker HealthOpens in New Window. Accessed April 5, 2012.

11. Harvard School of Public Health Center for Work, Health and Well-Being. SafeWell Practice Guidelines: An Integrated Approach to Worker HealthOpens in New Window. Version 1.0. February, 2012.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.