Wellness Programs Should Address Obesity as Well as Smoking

by: Nichole Gunn November 29, 2010

Everyone will agree that smoking cessation is healthy. But, recent research findings suggest a link between smoking and an individual’s body mass index.

Health experts, noting these findings and others, are highlighting the value of corporate wellness programs that offer employee incentives for an overall healthier and fitter lifestyle.

According to Human Resources Executive Online, researchers at the Shanghai University's School of Economics “analyzed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1998 through 2006 and found that reduced smoking in the workplace may lead to higher rates of obesity.”

The researchers, Feng Liu, Ning Zhang, Kai-Wen Cheng and Hua Wang, report “that their analysis of the BRFSS data found current smokers had a body mass index that was 1.8 points lower than those who never smoked, and 3.6 points lower than former smokers.:”

Rather than simply creating a ban on employee smoking, these new finding demonstrate the importance of creating comprehensive wellness programs that address the complexities of employee health issues.

Wellness consultant Barry Hall explained to the online source, "Any tobacco-cessation program worth its salt will address co-behavioral issues such as stress and weight management.” He went on to add, “The majority of programs may be specifically aimed at tobacco, but they tend not to address corollary ones such as lower weight or lower cholesterol." Businesses need to set goals and motivate participation through incentives that create a well-rounded program.

Companies are becoming creative in their efforts to reduce the ever-rising healthcare costs. A number of these companies are “offering team-oriented fitness challenges that encourage healthy eating and exercise by providing biometric screenings and dietitians for employees.”