Victorian organisations are being urged to help tackle obesity by promoting good health in the workplace.
More than 2.3 million Victorians are now overweight or obese, contributing to a rise in chronic diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes 1.
The cost is worn by the individual and the workforce, with obesity-related lost productivity costing Australian businesses as much as $4.8 billion a year 2.
Speaking ahead of the Achievement Program and LiveLighter’s Good Health Good Business Summit on Friday, Professor Anna Peeters, Professor of Epidemiology and Equity in Public Health & Head of Obesity and Population Health at Deakin University, said a comprehensive approach was needed.
“Obesity doesn’t only pose a risk for individuals, it also affects society,” Professor Peters said.
“If no action is taken, the indirect costs of obesity – including absenteeism, and present but unproductive workers – will continue to rise.
“To turn this around we need to think more cleverly about how to create healthier environments for all Victorians.”
With workers spending a third of their waking hours at work 3, employers can contribute to better health by promoting and supporting healthy lifestyles.
Cancer Council Victoria Head of Prevention Craig Sinclair said employers that provide an environment that promotes health can positively influence workers’ choices and behaviour.
“Obesity is hurting people and hurting business, but it doesn’t need to be this way,” Mr Sinclair said.
“Sedentary behaviour can be reduced by introducing initiatives that incorporate more movement into daily tasks, like using active transport to get to meetings, conducting walking meetings and encouraging people to use stairwells instead of elevators.
“When healthy food choices are promoted and available on site, at canteens or in vending machines, people are given the opportunity to maintain a balanced diet and create or maintain healthy lifestyle habits.”
Businesses that encourage workers to lead healthy lifestyles stand to benefit from a reduction in sick leave, better staff retention and improved morale.
“Healthy workers are nearly three times more productive than unhealthy workers 4, proving that creating healthy work environments is a smart business move for employers,” Mr Sinclair said.
The Achievement Program and LiveLighter offer free resources to help workplaces and individuals make healthy changes.
LiveLighter is a public health education campaign which encourages Victorians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active. Delivered by the Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation, the Livelighter campaign is funded by the Victorian State Government.
“LiveLighter offers a wealth of information, resources and tools including an online meal and activity planner to help Victorians lead healthier lives,” said Kellie-Ann Jolly Director of Cardiovascular Health Programs at Heart Foundation Victoria.
The Achievement Program provides workplaces with a framework and resources to make long-term changes to their policies and culture. It is funded by the Victorian Government and delivered by Cancer Council Victoria.
The approach has a growing membership base of more than 900 workplaces and is potentially reaching as many as 344,000 Victorian employees, or 12 per cent of the workforce.
Workplaces interested in further information, tools and resources can visit the Achievement Program and LiveLighter websites or call 1300 721 682.
Professor Anna Peeters will present at the Achievement Program and LiveLighter’s Good Health, Good Business Summit at Cancer Council Victoria on Friday 8 April.
The summit will be attended by more than 100 senior managers, HR and health and safety representatives from universities, sporting clubs, government, healthcare, transport and corporate organisations. It will give organisations insight into how they can create a healthier workplace and reduce overweight and obesity.
1. Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan,‘ (2015) Victorian Government, pg. vi
2 No time to weight 2. Obesity: Its impact on Australia and a case for action,’ Obesity Australia, pg. 11. Available from http://www.obesityaustralia.org/resources-1/no-time-to-wait-2
3 ‘Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan,‘ (2015) Victorian Government, pg. 45
4 Medibank Private: The health of Australia’s workforce. November 2005