Healthier Foods, Physical Activity Key to Healthy Workforce

March 26, 2004 ( - Plan sponsors looking to reduce employee heath costs can offer healthier food choices and improve access to physical activity at the work site.

Employers do not need to go overboard either. Some simple steps that can be taken include replacing candy bowls with bowls of fresh fruit, according to the California Department of Health Services’ (CDHS) Fruits and Vegetables and Physical Activity at the Worksite: Business Leaders and Working Women Speak Out on Access and Environment report.

Not surprisingly, business leaders are on board with worker health promotion programs as a way to reduce the costs of employee obesity. These costs include increased absenteeism, loss of productivity and higher medical bills.

“Workers spend the majority of their waking hours on the job, so it makes good business sense for employers to try to improve worker fitness,” Dr. Gilberto Chavez, chief medical officer of CDHS said in a news release. “Access to healthy foods and physical activity during the workday can significantly reduce the risks of obesity and other health-related problems.”

The report found half of employers are already taking steps intended to promote good health. The most common offerings were health screenings, health fairs and flu vaccinations. On the other hand, the 50% that did not have health promotion programs felt that such programs were not practical because they were too costly and/or employees would not participate. That is not to say businesses do not see value in the programs; nearly 90% of business leaders believed that there were benefits to offering worksite health promotion programs, including less worker absenteeism, more job productivity and increased morale.