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With one of the highest rates of adult obesity in the state, businesses get creative in keeping health care costs down
The survey, conducted by Men's Fitness magazine, examined lifestyle factors in each city, including fast-food restaurants per capita and availability of city parks, gyms and bike paths.
What's more, companies are realizing how unhealthy habits can affect profits, hoping that a skinnier employee equals a fat bottom line.
Cost of obesity
Oklahoma has the ninth-highest rate of adult obesity at 26.8 percent and the 17th-highest rate of overweight youths (ages 10-17) at 15.4 percent in the nation.
According to "Obesity in the United States Workforce: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys," 140 million persons aged 20 and older are currently employed in the United States. Twenty-nine percent of them are obese, up from 20 percent a decade ago. With obesity comes an increased rate of work limitation, along with significantly increased rates of hypertension, dyslipidemia, Type 2 diabetes, the metabolic syndrome and arthritis.
An obese worker costs a company an extra $1,432 each year in health care costs and $377 more due to absenteeism and presenteeism (the productivity-draining practice of coming to work when not feeling well enough to do so).
A research article that appeared in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine - "The Cost of Lifestyle Health Risks: Obesity," by Dr. D. Adam Long - showed the health care claim cost breakdown of obesity by gender and by age.
Long's current analysis shows that obesity lifestyle-related health care claim cost per member per month for the 55- to 64-year-old age group is $10 for males and $13.88 for females. The costs per month per member are conservative in that they do not include prescription drugs related to obesity, which could add 10 to 25 percent.
The skinny on the fat bottom line
But, if Cornett's plan works, does a healthier employee mean a fatter bottom line for employers?
"I do think it helps businesses," said Dale Hageman, president and CEO for Accord Human Resources. "Healthier employees have more energy and less absenteeism. If your company suffers high absenteeism, then productivity drops."
Accord Human Resources doesn't just talk the talk; it walks the walk. The company offers to pay for portions of health club memberships and offers health fairs for its employees.
"We certainly encourage our employees to exercise and to be healthy," Hageman said. "The best pay off is lower health insurance costs and better attendance. Indirectly, we want Accord to be a place where people want to work. Offering these benefits helps with recruiting, morale and employee retention."
Chesapeake Energy Corp. is among the many businesses seeing the payoff of encouraging employees to be healthy. This year, it's 5-year-old fitness center, complete with swimming pool, shows an 85 percent participation rate from employees on the Oklahoma City campus.
"It's been an amazing benefit," said Toni Parks-Payne, fitness center director. "I think this shows that Chesapeake really values its employees, but it's also a win-win. The employees get the benefit of the fitness center, and Chesapeake wins because the employees are healthier, which means lower absentees and low health care costs."
The 42,000-square-foot facility also offers a "social" aspect for workers, which, in turn, is an added recruitment tool for the company.