AAOHN: Wellness Programs Can Be Key to Resolutions Success

In this season of New Year's resolutions, the focus for many revolves around tobacco use and obesity, the No. 1 and 2 preventable causes of death in the United States, which together cost U.S. businesses more than $60 billion annually. While personal commitments to quit smoking and/or lose weight are still fresh, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. says U.S. workers might better keep resolved by turning to an unexpected but useful resource--their employer. According to the association's data, worksite wellness programs, including weight management and tobacco cessation initiatives, have proved successful in helping American employees stay healthy while also benefiting employers' bottom lines.

Obesity affects more than 60 million Americans, and the price tag to U.S. businesses for obesity-attributable illness, including healthcare costs and lost productivity, is $13 billion annually. According to an AAOHN survey, workplace weight-management programs play a tremendous role in helping employees achieve weight loss. In fact, nearly half of all respondents who claimed to participate in workplace weight-management programs reported success in reaching and maintaining their long-term goals, AAOHN says.

The association, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also supports the implementation of worksite tobacco cessation programs. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Each day, smoking claims the lives of about 1,200 people, AAOHN says. For every employee who smokes, U.S. businesses will pay an average of $1,400 per year per smoker, the CDC reports. In addition, companies pay some $47.2 billion in indirect costs from smoking-attributable illness and death, including absenteeism, worker’s compensation payments, accidents and fires, property damage, and secondhand smoke exposure.

A survey issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that 59 percent of private employers had either smoke-free facility policies or permitted smoking only in separately ventilated smoking areas. In addition to implementing worksite smoke-free policies, employers also can facilitate tobacco cessation programs. "The worksite is an ideal environment in which to encourage smokers to quit," said AAOHN President Richard Kowalski. "Employees spend so much time at work that smokefree policies can provide the incentive they need to succeed."

AAOHN has tools and resources to help employers develop and launch worksite wellness programs. For more information on implementing worksite wellness initiatives, call (770) 455-7757 or visit www.aaohn.org. Click on “How Healthy is Your Business?” on the For Your Business page.

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