Dr. Dee Edington has a simple suggestion on how to combat obesity and cease the out of control, spiraling health care costs in the United States: convince employees to stop getting fatter.
On the surface this may sound defeatist to the uninitiated however Dr. Edington has the credentials and scientific data to back up his advice. As the Director of the University of Michigan’s Health Management Research Center Dr. Edington has been recognized for decades as one of the leading scientists in the field of corporate wellness research and he has personally witnessed the decline in American health despite all of the public/private efforts to stop it.
In his book, Zero Trends, Dr. Edington gets quickly to the point about corporate wellness. Companies are more focused on economics than health and whether we like it or not ill health is a major economic threat to companies and to our nation as a whole. Few realize that 17% of the nation’ GDP is spent on healthcare and a woeful 5% of that amount is spent on preventative health measures. Dr. Edington’s research showed that companies on average would save $1,500 annually by just motivating employees to stay at their current health levels. In other words, just don’t get fatter.
While Americans have led the world in the race to ill health for some decades we have actually been toppled from our throne by Mexico and countries in the Middle East where obesity rates are surpassing those of America. Dr. Edington predicted that healthy employees will actually become a source of competitive advantage for businesses. This prediction made years ago is now a reality as scientists have proven the correlation between obesity and inactivity and it’s effects on productivity and cognitive decline. Surprising to most, even China now finds itself embroiled in a battle against obesity (on top of its currently environmental challenges). Smart employers have a new subset of evaluation indicators to consider when scouting out new business locations, many of which should be related to health and quality of life issues of their employees.
So what does Dr. Edington propose to end this present course of ill health? Simple measures really- most certainly those related to diet and exercise that most of us are aware. In regards to exercise Dr. Edington is an advocate of walking. “I think walking is THE exercise for Americans,” he reported in an interview with the University of Michigan.
In order to improve one’s health it is a good idea to not harm it any further. Sounds look good advice to us.