Adding Food and Fitness to Worksite Wellness

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.

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 multicomponent, 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)

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.Circulation. 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 Med. 2009;37:358-9.

3. Levi J, Vinter S, St. Laurent R, Segal LM.F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America2008: 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 Nation. 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 Magazine. 2006.

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

7. World Health Organization WEF.Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases in the Workplace through Diet and Physical Activity: 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 Med. 2009;37:340-57.

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

10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Total Worker Health. 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 Health. Version 1.0. February, 2012.