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In our studies and work with several organisations we have identified with the global efforts on the statement that chronic disease and lifestyle-related health issues are on the rise globally, raising potentially disruptive implications for workforce planning and development. In order to effectively plan for sustainable work forces, employers with global reach are now compelled to refine business strategies with employee well-being in mind.

As economy of different countries and organisations are affected by the new global economic hardship, more pressure has been placed on executives and organisations like never before to uphold their organisations through sustainable innovations and strategies. This expectation is worsening the level of health outcomes of organisations through stress, burnouts, sleep deprivation, increased blood pressure, poor heart health, very critical timelines, leading to overwhelming mental and bodily task and overall health risks. These collective health issues, if allowed to prolong will make us all end up with chronic diseases in the long term. Retirement years are becoming characterised with so much illnesses which are outcomes of our behaviour and lifestyles during our active work age.

Smart companies across the world are enacting innovative health and wellness programs to stimulate improved employee health in such critical time as this. Motivated by a desire to positively impact their employees’ health and well-being, as well as driven by defined business goals and redefine their work cultures.

Achieving business success is not only predicated on entirely business strategies and processes, the health and wellness of the work population cannot also be overemphasised. The question is how integral is a healthy population to our overall business success?

What is healthy population: This is the healthy outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within a group. Though there are existing health plans (health Insurance) in most organisations, but the urgent need to move from focusing on curative healthcare approach within the workplace and moving to preventive health underpinned in health and wellness programs is of urgent importance. The need for organisations to focus on social ecological models within the workplace and consider environmental cues that influence our overall health and wellness has become expedient.

There are two major critical factors that have become key influencers of continuous presence on chronic disease in our workplaces. The two major factors are:

  • Dietary pattern or style
  • Physical inactivity

Dietary pattern: What we eat becomes who we end up becoming. Our dietary pattern and eating habit has grossly changed in the past two decades and the need to revert the trend has become a global anticipation. Most organisations have common food sources and the need to tie the food types into our wellness and health programs is also of overall importance.

Eating behaviour amongst us has also gone very bad. Binge eating and disordered eating have characterised eating pattern amongst us all and this is fuelling our body sizes and body weight accumulation. It will interest us to know that body weight and body fat composition are pointers to our collective health risks. Psychology of eating states that people eat for different reasons; these talk about hunger, appetite and satiety. We should eat not because we have appetite for food but because we are truly hungry. Eating because we have presence of food all around us is stimulated by appetite and this is one underlying cause of increased body weight.

There is the concept of energy balance which we must all apply in ensuring a healthy life style and body weight. Energy intake over energy expenditure is what energy balance represents. If you must eat much, be sure you have enough physical activities to expend the amount of food taken in. This will keep you healthy.

Physical inactivity: Physical activity is not same as physical exercise, this is unintentional or unplanned physical activities we get involved in. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle and require energy expenditure. Physical inactivity has become a huge confounder of chronic diseases not only among a working population but a collective global concern. As technology improves, mechanization of the workplaces increases and this fuels sedentary lifestyle amongst workers. The guideline for healthy living says, sitting in a position for one hour and above at a single stretch is unsafe and unhealthy to us all. Studies have revealed that sitting time is associated with increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other disease states.

Most smart organisations in their attempt to improve healthy life style have adopted the policy of having a central printer system which is kept far from everyone’s seat. This means everyone will have to deliberately move from his or her seat to pick documented sent for printing. This means unintentional muscles activity has become part of the workplace engineering processes. This should be encouraged and emulated in workplace health and well-being designs.

Lack of physical inactivity has made obesity and overweight become prevalent in workplaces, people are sliding our of healthy body weight range while some are even getting into morbid obesity stage.

What is healthy body weight?

This is calculated using weight in kg divided height in metre square. Below is Body Mass Index (BMI) categories based on increased risk.

< 18 = Underweight

18.5 – 24.9 = Normal Weight

20.5 – 29.9 = Overweight

30 – 34.9 = Class 1 obesity

35 – 39.3 = Class 2 obesity

>40 and above = Class 3 obesity (morbid obesity)

Prevalence of obesity and overweight in adult population globally

Adult men: 34% are overweight and obese

Adult women: 35% are overweight and obese

Adult men in obesity above 30 BMI: 10%

Adult women in obesity above 30 BMI: 14%

We will be leaving this discussion here but if you can follow us in the next edition, we will be looking at sleep, stress and health risks.

You can reach us using ehi@ohsm.com.ng

About the author

Ehi Iden editor