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Employee Benefits

Employers Target Overweight Kids

Helping their employees’ overweight and obese children can save companies money—and put kids on a healthier path to adulthood.

Employer wellness programs are focusing on helping overweight kids lose weight. Nearly one-third of American children carry more pounds than is healthy, and obese teenagers have a 70% chance of turning into expensive obese adult workers. Employers pay about $45 billion a year for health care needs attributed to obesity.

Even as youths, the obese cost employers more. They see doctors twice as often as others and go to hospitals three times as often. That comes to an extra $2,000 a year for each obese youngster. Plus their parents take off more time to care for them, hurting productivity.

To rein in the expense, companies are expanding benefit programs, adding incentives, offering nutrition counseling and letting children use on-site fitness centers and medical clinics. The focus even extends to child care services. Here are some examples:

  • Costco removed the obesity exclusion from its health plan and now reimburses for claims. In its first year, nearly 250 kids received care for obesity.
  • Cerner Corp.’s health clinic extends its primary care services for dependents to include obesity screenings.
  • Google’s child care center promotes outdoor activities, including planting vegetable gardens. The kids harvest and help cook the food they grow.
  • IBM has a 12 week Web based program with a $150 cash rebate. The program encourages healthy eating and physical activity and includes setting goals. Two-thirds of workers reported their kids were exercising more, and 59% of youngsters either lost weight or maintained a healthy weight.
  • Florida Power & Light grants workers’ kids access to its fitness facilities where they can work with a trainer for a personalized program.
  • Texas Instruments also allows employees’ kids to use the company fitness centers. Moreover, it offers tennis lessons, swim teams and summer camps.
  • Medtronic provides weekly exercise and nutrition classes to employees’ kids at its wellness center.

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