Industrial Engineering

Healthier workplaces


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Environmental interventions keep employees from gaining weight

Companies with healthy employees have a more productive work force that avoids downtime from sickness. And in an era of skyrocketing health costs, one simple way to improve health is to keep from gaining weight.

Researchers from the University of Georgia and Emory University discovered that some simple, low-cost interventions helped employees avoid weight gain. They examined changes made at several Dow Chemical Co. worksites, thing like encouraging workers to take the stairs and making healthy options available in vending machines.

But combining the environmental design changes with voluntary, individual weight-management programs didn’t increase weight loss, according to the study reported in the March issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In all groups, about 13.5 percent of the workers reduced their weight by 5 percent or more.

The authors concluded that simple worksite environmental modifications may help with weight maintenance, but they likely won’t cause substantial weight reductions even when combined with low-intensity individual interventions. More study is needed to determine whether more comprehensive worksite programs can promote weight loss successfully.