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Fat to Lead?

Peter Mills , 08 Sep 2010

My wife recently went on a leadership course called “fit to lead”. There were a number of NHS managers on the course, many of whom, apparently, put your archetypal corpulent banker to shame. She dubbed the event “fat to lead”.

A recent report from the Office of Health Economics has been getting a fair amount of coverage in the national media over the last day or two. The long and the short of their findings are that the population of Britain is getting fatter, existing measures and interventions to reverse the trend have failed so why not offer more people bariatric surgery (gastric band operations and the like).

Being economists they did some calculations on the impact such a strategy would have upon NHS and also business costs. The numbers actually stack up pretty well. With even a small increase (5%) in the number of individuals who meet the eligibility criteria being operated upon yielding multimillion pound savings over a 3 year period.

This actually shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to us in the corporate setting. There is plenty of research evidence out there showing that as body mass index increases over and above the recommended healthy range then so do medical costs, absenteeism and presenteeism. Overweight, and particularly obesity (defined as having a body mass index of 30 or greater), is a health risk factor that we know can have a profound impact on an individual’s ability to perform satisfactorily in their job. So with this in mind should employers be doing more to help their staff maintain a healthy body weight?

Many employers already sponsor onsite programmes like weight watchers, or provide subsidies for gym and fitness club membership, but is this enough? With the proportion of working age people classified as obese continuing to increase year-on-year what about employers contributing to the cost of having weight reduction surgery for those who fall into the at risk category? It’s a thought and I’d be fascinated to hear what people think.

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