Employers urged to put weight behind bid to tackle obesity crisis

Employers are being urged to tackle obesity at work as part of the latest multi-million pound government strategy.

Health secretary Alan Johnson has announced a £372m strategy, Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives, aimed at bringing together employers, individuals and communities to support health at work and promote children’s health and food.

Among the proposals, employers could be asked to make healthy workplaces part of their core business model.

“Employers can support their staff in a number of ways: making healthy options available in staff canteens, providing fitness facilities and investing in facilities for cyclists.

“Employers will reap the benefits in improved productivity, high staff morale and retention, and reduced sickness absence costs,” according to the Department of Health’s Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives report.

Johnson said: “Tackling obesity is the most significant public and personal health challenge facing our society. The core of the problem is simple – we eat too much and we do too little exercise.”

In England alone, nearly one in four people are now classified as obese. Nearly 20% of two to 15-year-olds are obese, with a further 14% overweight.

The Foresight Report on obesity, published last year, predicted that by 2050, 60% of the UK population will be obese.

Johnson added that level obesity will only reduce if everyone in society recognises and owns the problem, and does something to address it.

The government will also be working with employers and employer organisations to explore how companies can best promote good health among their staff.

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