MPs call for more awareness of obesity in the workplace

The Government needs to organise a major conference to promote awareness of
obesity in the workplace, and look at ways to encourage employers to help their
staff become more active, an influential group of MPs has suggested.

The Commons Health Select Committee, in a report on obesity published in
May, stressed employers had a key role to play in encouraging activity among
their staff.

The MPs also expressed surprise that they had not received a single
memorandum during their inquiry from industries that were not directly involved
in tackling obesity, indicating a worrying lack of interest in the issue.

"The problems of obesity are already having a substantial impact on
business. For example, back pain is the largest single cause of days lost from
work; obesity is a known contributor to back pain, as is a general lack of
fitness," the committee warned.

Tax incentives to encourage employers to provide gym memberships could be
explored, but small measures, such as putting signs on escalators encouraging
staff to take the stairs could also help.

Canteens needed to focus on more healthy food, and there should be greater
awareness of how heating and air-conditioning affected energy levels.

"Little seems to have been done to address the problems of sedentary
behaviour in the workplace. Yet, as the working patterns of modern society have
drastically altered, and as manual labour has dwindled, the office-bound
workplace, with its desk, chair and computer terminal has become the norm for
millions of people," the MPs said.

In response, Dr David Ashton, medical director of the Government’s Healthier
Weight Centres, agreed behavioural and lifestyle changes needed to be addressed
but warned there was no quick fix to the problem.

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