For nearly 15 years, David DeJoy, Mark Wilson and their colleagues in the Workplace Health Group in the College of Public Health have partnered with organizations of nearly all sizes and types—from Dow Chemical Co. to Home Depot Inc. and the Georgia Department of Community Health—on issues related to health and occupational safety. Their studies consistently have shown that employers can improve the health of their staff through programs that encourage healthy eating and physical activity. DeJoy and Wilson understand that employers have limited resources, so their research seeks practical, cost-effective solutions.
In a recent study that involved nearly 1,100 Union-Pacific Corp. employees, researchers found employees who were given counseling about healthy eating and participated in a program where they exercised for 150 minutes per week were able to maintain their weight. Their counterparts in the control group, on the other hand, saw their collective waistlines expand over the four-year study period.
DeJoy concedes that weight maintenance doesn’t sound like a huge win, but he points out that from a population health perspective, simply keeping people from gaining weight can dramatically improve outcomes while reducing health care costs.
“As people are gaining weight, they’re marching toward diabetes,” he said. “If you can get them to flatten that trajectory and maintain their weight, you’re lowering that risk.”