[Prevention of overweight and obesity in the workplace. BASF-health promotion campaign "trim down the pounds—losing weight without losing your mind"]

C Oberlinner, S Lang, C Germann, B Trauth, F Eberle, R Pluto, S Neumann, A Zober
Das Gesundheitswesen 2007, 69 (7): 385-92

BACKGROUND: The rise in the prevalence of overweight and obesity and their associated diseases is leading to substantial health and socio-economic problems in industrialized countries. The Commission of the European Community indicates that workplaces are a setting that has a strong potential for health promotion and disease prevention. Against this background the department of occupational medicine and health protection of the BASF Aktiengesellschaft initiated a health promotion campaign "Trim down the pounds--Losing weight without losing your mind" on the prevention of overweight and obesity at the workplace.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: The target group included all overweight and obese employees among the 34,000 employees at the BASF site in Ludwigshafen. Overweight and obese employees should reduce weight (either in lowering their body mass index (BMI) by 2 points or by reducing their BMI to less than 25 kg/m2) over a period of nine months assisted by a health promotion programme and normal-weight colleagues (weight-loss helpers). All participants were monitored by occupational physicians, this was also to detect obesity-related diseases. A prize money of euro 10,000 for successful participants and their weight-loss helpers was drawn by lot.

RESULTS: A total of 2,062 employees took part in the health promotion campaign (1,313 overweight and obese employees and 749 weight-loss helpers). 708 overweight participants attended the weight-control measurement after nine months, 658 people had succeeded in reducing their body weight, 440 of them had lowered their BMI by more than 2 points. 83% of those attending the weight-control measurement had a weight-loss helper. Medical benefits were shown by improvement of laboratory parameters and detection of obesity-related diseases.

CONCLUSION: The health promotion campaign "Trim down the pounds" demonstrated that the workplace is a promising focal point for conducting prevention programmes based on the proximity of occupational medical services to the employee. Prevention of overweight and obesity in the workplace is possible by promoting healthy diets in workplace-canteens and physical activity programs like "walking in the lunch break". These programs are substantially strengthened by occupational medical activities in detecting obesity-related diseases. Health promotion at the workplace can be viewed as a benefit to employee and employer alike with employers benefiting from a reduction of lost productivity costs.

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