The majority of employers who offer health insurance also offer employee wellness programs such as smoking cessation groups and walking programs to encourage employees to set and achieve health goals in exchange for financial perks. One approach that is increasingly being used to incentivize employees is to pay them (through insurance rebates) for achieving health goals.
In a recently published commentary in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, authors Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director, and Lenny Lesser, MD, MSHS, Assistant Research Physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, discuss the effectiveness of these programs.
According to the authors, monetary incentives can help employees start to make healthy changes, but these changes are difficult to sustain in the long term. “These programs do not address key factors that impact public health: marketing, pricing and the easy availability of unhealthy food,” according to lead author, Lenny Lesser, MD, MSHS. “It also unfairly places the responsibility on individuals to change health indices over which they have little personal control. Ignoring environmental and biological forces that contribute to obesity can undermine a program’s ability to help people reach weight outcomes or change health behavior.”
The authors suggest that employers create a healthier work environment. Tactics like providing time and space for physical activity or removing sugary drinks would make it easier for employees to engage in healthy behavior in the workplace, and these strategies would prevent the stigmatization and ethical problems associated with incentivizing weight loss.
Rudd Report Shows that Children Need to Be Protected from Unhealthy Food Marketing Until at Least Age 14
Current food marketing practices present a significant public health threat for older children and teens, according to a report recently released by the Rudd Center. The report suggests that children ages 12 to 14 are highly vulnerable to influence from unhealthy food marketing, and policy solutions are needed to protect children until at least age 14.
The food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, recognizes that companies should not target advertising for unhealthy foods to children 11 years and younger due to their greater vulnerability to advertising. However, the industry currently considers children ages 12 and older to be appropriate targets for marketing that encourages consumption of unhealthy products.
Yet, according to the report, this age group remains extraordinarily susceptible to the influence of food advertising, and middle school-age is a period of unique vulnerability. Read more.
The soda industry influenced news coverage of two soda tax ballot measures in the cities of Richmond and El Monte, California, according to research recently released by the Berkeley Media Studies Group. Researchers analyzed news articles and industry publications from November 2011 to January 2013 and found that the soda industry infiltrated news stories while camouflaging its identity.
According to the researchers, the industry recruited a broad range of community spokespeople to voice an anti-tax position on their behalf, and many of these sources received industry funding but were not identified as connected to industry. The researchers assert that this allowed soda companies to distance themselves from the political debate and create the appearance that opposition to the taxes came from within the community, rather than from a well-funded PR campaign. Read more.