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National Business Group on Health unveils employer toolkit for childhood obesity (10/26)

October 26, 2009
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Saying that employers can no longer afford to ignore the epidemic of childhood obesity, the National Business Group on Health has launched "Childhood Obesity: It's Everyone's Business," a toolkit designed to help U.S. employers address the growing problem of overweight and obese children, according to a recent press release.

Studies have shown that the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States has nearly tripled over the past 30 years, with nearly one-third of children now considered either overweight or obese. The United States currently has the highest percentage of overweight youth in its history.

“There is a great deal at stake for U.S. employers," said Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health, whose members include 280 large U.S. employers. "An obese teenager has a 70 percent chance of become an obese adult. And with health care for obesity-related illnesses costing employers at least $45 billion annually, the price tag of this childhood epidemic could become unaffordable if we don't change course."

The new toolkit was developed with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources Services Administration's Maternal and Child Health Bureau. It reflects growing employer interest in childhood obesity and practical solutions to the problem. Toolkit recommendations for employers intentionally build on the infrastructure and resources that many large employers already have in place.

"Employers are in a terrific position to be leaders in the battle against childhood obesity," said LuAnn Heinen, a vice president and director of the Institute on the Costs and Health Effects of Obesity. "That's one of the primary reasons we developed this toolkit. Our goal is to provide a range of options — and employer examples — that they can easily implement in their own company."

The toolkit is divided into seven major components including an overview of childhood obesity and the major ways it impacts businesses. Four core components illustrate how initiatives employers already have in place may be expanded or leveraged to promote healthy child weight. These core components include:
  • Benefit Design: Aligning Stakeholders to Change Behavior
  • Employee Education: Equipping Employees for the Battle
  • Employer-Sponsored Programs and Onsite Facilities: Using What You Have
  • Community and Philanthropy: Reconsidering Company Contributions
"As overweight and obesity increases among children, employers are clearly going to be affected in many ways. Childhood obesity will lead to increased health care utilization and higher costs for employers. Poor child health will also decrease employee productivity as working parents often must leave work early and be absent to care for their child. Schools, child care facilities, communities and families have begun to respond but more focused efforts are urgently needed. Employers and health care providers also have roles to play as part of a comprehensive solution. Clearly, childhood obesity is everyone's business," concluded Heinen.

The toolkit is available free of charge to the public and can be found at www.businessgrouphealth.org.

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