Workplace Obesity Interventions Must Be Inexpensive to Generate a Return on Investment

At work, obesity interventions must focus on low-cost policy or environmental changes to generate a return on investment, according to a new study by researchers at RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Because many employers require information about costs saved by interventions, this study, published in the July issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, calculated return on investment from workplace obesity interventions.

“Although the cost of obesity is high, the potential savings associated with moderate weight loss is relatively modest,” said Justin Trogdon, Ph.D., a health economist at RTI and the paper’s lead author. “However, interventions that reduce excess weight can still be cost effective even if they are not cost saving on net.”

According to the researchers, behavioral interventions are generally considered successful if they can lead to 5 percent weight loss over a sustained period of time.

The study results showed that those benefits equate to about $90 per year across all overweight or obese individuals, or $160 per year for those in the highest obesity range.

The research said that those savings are much less than the costs for many worksite programs.

Justin Trogdon, Ph.D., a health economist at RTI InternationalThe researchers based the study on a simulation model that estimated annual savings on medical expenditures and absenteeism costs by amount of average weight loss for a nationally representative company.

“The results suggest that low-cost policy or environmental change interventions in worksites may be more likely to be cost saving than high-cost, individually targeted behavioral change interventions unless they result in substantial weight loss,” Trogdon said.

The study was funded by the CDC.

Source:  RTI International

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