It is Obesity Awareness Week (March 2 – 6) and we are urging you to talk to your health care professional here at Corporate Doctors Plus about activities to improve your health and wellbeing.
Across the globe, the prevalence of obesity is increasing at a rapid rate. Did you know that in Queensland 2 in 3 adults and 1 in 4 children are obese or overweight?! Obesity represents a major concern as excess body weight and lack of physical activity is associated with many serious chronic health conditions. A survey conducted by Australian Medical Association found that while doctors believed most patients were generally aware of the health risks posed by being overweight or obese, they were not prepared to make long-term diet and exercise changes to return to a healthy weight range. This information means that the need to tackle this public health crisis has become urgent.
How do I find out if I am overweight or obese?
Overweight and obesity are classifications of a person’s excess body fat and are commonly assessed using the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is derived from a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by their height (in metres) squared (kg/m²). An adult is considered overweight if their BMI is greater than 25 kg/m² and obese if their BMI is greater than 30 kg/m² (See table). If you have concerns, please consult your doctor at Corporate Doctors Plus in Windsor by booking an appointment today.
How is my weight affecting my workplace?
To date, the focus has largely been on obesity as a health issue however have you considered how obesity is affecting your workplace?
The health consequences of obesity are wide and varied, including musculoskeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, breathlessness, asthma and respiratory diseases, daytime sleepiness and fatigue, depression, psychological problems and hypertension, to name a few. But the workplace impacts of obesity go beyond the health consequences for the individual. Research shows that overweight workers are more likely to have lower productivity, more injuries and higher claim costs overall. The impacts include:
Increased injuries and illnesses
Obesity and being overweight is associated with disability and decreased physical functioning, including mobility and flexibility. These limitations may restrict the types of duties that an obese worker is able to carry out and put them at greater risk of injury, musculoskeletal injuries, compared to a worker at a healthy weight.
This is particularly the case for physically intensive tasks and hot, humid workplaces where obesity is a risk factor for heat stress and negatively impacts heat acclimatisation, which relies on exercise and fitness.
Increased absenteeism and presenteeism
Obese workers are more likely to take sick leave, to be off sick for a longer duration or to be absent due to a personal injury or disease than workers at a healthy weight.
Obese people are also less likely to remain in the workforce overall, possibly due to higher rates of illness and injury. This might particularly affect older workers who are also more likely to be obese. Obesity has also been associated with presenteeism, which has been shown to have a greater impact on productivity than absenteeism.
Increased compensation costs
As obesity often leads to longer recovery times and further complications associated with injuries, it is also associated with higher medical costs in general, as much as 25 per cent higher for those who are overweight and between 50 and 100 per cent higher for those who are obese. In workplaces, this could mean greater pressure on compensation schemes because of increased accidents, longer claim durations and higher medical costs.
Equipment and environmental considerations
The increasing trend towards obesity in Australia means that work equipment and environments may need to be reassessed to ensure they are fit for the average Australian. This includes considering the weight capacities of machinery and equipment, such as ladders, forklifts, hoists, seats and elevators as well as providing personal protective equipment (PPE) in sizes that meet the needs of larger workers – especially given the importance of comfort and fit in PPE. Not to mention certain work environments, such as confined spaces which already have significant hazards and ergonomic assessment of tasks to ensure they are a fit for the physical capabilities of workers are also impacted, particularly for unconditioned new workers entering the workforce.
How can I address my weight at work?
A poor diet filled with high-fat, high-sugar products has a significant impact on physical health and is associated with obesity. The average Australian consumes more than twice the recommended daily sugar intake, and many are unaware of the hidden sugars in food and drinks.
While the Australian ‘tough guy’ culture that is particularly prevalent in blue-collar industries can encourage poor diets and make change difficult, research has shown that managers have a significant impact on their workers’ diets. Implementing workplace health programs, educating about healthy weight, and providing access to healthy food and drink options can go a long way to improving worker health, including obesity.
Do you want a free assessment and consultation of your organisation? Corporate Doctors Plus is in Windsor, Brisbane with affiliates nation-wide. To enquire, head to Corporate Doctors Plus or call us on 07 33578192.