National Employee Wellness Month is well underway, and continues to provide an opportunity to generate greater awareness for the pivotal role workplace wellness programs can play in the fight against chronic disease. Last week we highlighted several partners’ wellness programs, and this week we would like to highlight an innovative, new program that is redefining the scope of workplace wellness programs by focusing not just on the individual employee, but also on the entire family.
While adult obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. – one that impacts all, including employers – childhood obesity rates are also at an all-time high, having more than tripled in the last 30 years. While childhood obesity may not be seen as a workplace wellness issue, there are both immediate and long-term health issues linked to obesity in children that affect the entire family. Childhood obesity can lead to future chronic health problems in addition to higher health costs. In fact, a study conducted for one large employer indicated that average per capita health insurance costs were as high as $2,907 in 2008 for an obese child and $10,789 for a child with type 2 diabetes. As such, now more than ever there is a critical need for providers, insurers, and other health groups to develop innovative programs that address the overall health and wellness needs of the entire family, children included.
JOIN for ME, piloted with Raytheon, UnitedHealth Group, the Y of the USA and the YMCA of Greater Providence, R.I., is a groundbreaking wellness program aimed at fighting childhood obesity through whole family engagement. The program is the first of its kind and has the potential to become a national model. Participants who were obese or overweight and ages six to 17, along with their parents, engaged in a series of learning sessions on nutrition, increased activity, and lifestyle improvement tracking. In the pilot, JOIN for Me was offered as a workplace wellness program included in a Raytheon’s health benefits package, but it can also be a standalone program.
After six months, 84 percent of the original 155 participants were still engaged in the program, and the average reduction in excessive weight was around 3.5 percent. Reuters also reported that parents of participants also experienced weight loss.
By including the family, the program addresses the unique challenges that children face in trying to lose weight and provides the communal support that both children and adults need to make healthier lifestyle and nutrition choices.
Deneen Vojta, M.D., senior vice president, UnitedHealth Center for Reform and Modernization, says the program is “a fun and practical solution that can easily be made available to the millions of families who struggle with childhood obesity. We look forward to supporting the launch of this model in communities around the nation.”
We here at the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease applaud our partner, UnitedHealth Group, on their innovative program engaging the entire family through workplace wellness efforts to curb obesity, improve overall health and prevent chronic diseases.