Health chief says businesses hold key to tackling obesity

By Ian Dipple Friday 17 January 2014 Updated: 20/01 16:03

BUSINESSES could hold the key to tackling obesity and other health issues facing residents.

Dr Frances Howie, the county’s head of health and well-being, called for a mass public health movement to tackle the lifestyle factors which cause a huge amount of conditions which are otherwise preventable.

She admitted as a country ‘the health messages have not been right over the last 20 to 30 years’ and in Worcestershire the focus was on making it the norm for people to live and work in a healthy environment, which would allow them to make the right choices about their own lives.

Obesity alone costs Worcestershire’s NHS £80million a year and the wider economy another £60million.

Dr Howie told a meeting of Redditch business leaders at the Abbey Hotel last Friday (January 10): “Older people don’t arrive at 65 and become unwell, things like obesity run through.

“The issue is trying to get people in their middle years before they get to those significant birthdays and provide support.

“80 per cent of smokers want to give up, 70 per cent of obese people want to lose weight at any one time, what people don’t want to be told is stop it now, but here’s an opportunity for support.”

The Worcestershire Works Well programme provides structured support for companies wanting to improve the health and well-being of their staff. About 45 firms across the county have signed up so far.

Dr Howie said there was a clear business case for companies to help tackle wider public health issues such as obesity, depression, tiredness and smoking which were all factors affecting productivity and staff sickness.

“Being at work is good for people’s health, economic productivity is good for people as we know those that live in prosperous areas are healthier and healthy employees are good for business,” she said.

“The evidence is improving employee health and well-being is a really good way to business success. It’s about how can work become a really healthy place, because if people spent a large amount of their time in a healthy place that will impact on their health.”

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