Obesity Care for the American Workforce: New Guidance for Employer Health Plans

New paper from the STOP Obesity Alliance and American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine details strategies for comprehensive obesity benefits

January 17, 2024

Picture of a man and the words: a comprehensive obesity benefit for the American workforce.

WASHINGTON (January 16, 2024) – From decreased worker safety, absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased employer healthcare costs, the disease of obesity is particularly harmful to the workplace and workforce. A paper published last month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine outlines the core components of obesity care and the need for employers to offer a comprehensive obesity benefit as part of employee insurance coverage. 

The paper, which should serve as a guide for employers, was informed by a roundtable held by the STOP Obesity Alliance (STOP) at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The roundtable was held with medical directors from the energy and aerospace/defense industry, who were brought together to learn about the disease of obesity and to gain awareness of benefits for the treatment of obesity. Participants learned how a comprehensive approach to covering obesity treatments is necessary, and what specific insurance benefits should be offered through employee health plans.

“Many employers are interested in finding ways to increase access to and utilization of comprehensive obesity care for their employees,” said Christine Gallagher, the paper’s co-author and STOP’s Research Project Director. “It’s important for employers to make sure they are providing comprehensive obesity care benefits, ranging from behavioral therapy to bariatric surgery to anti-obesity medications and weight maintenance, and to remember that these are all tools in treating and managing the chronic and relapsing disease of obesity.”

The STOP Obesity Alliance developed a comprehensive obesity benefit for employers and benefit managers looking for guidance on what benefits should be included for their employees/beneficiaries seeking comprehensive obesity care. STOP recommends that all health plans offer a comprehensive approach to care, including access to:

  • Nutrition therapy;
  • Intensive behavioral therapy;
  • Coverage of all FDA-approved medications for obesity; and 
  • Bariatric surgery

"Addressing the pervasive impact of obesity in the workplace is a priority in occupational and environmental medicine and beyond. Employers play a vital role in ensuring access to comprehensive obesity care, including nutrition therapy, behavioral interventions, FDA-approved medications, and bariatric surgery. By embracing these strategies, employers not only enhance the well-being of their workforce but also contribute to a healthier and more productive workplace. I am proud of the work being done by the STOP Obesity Alliance and ACOEM, and am looking forward to continued dialogue between patients, healthcare professionals, and employers,” said Kenji Saito, ACOEM’s President.

The paper, “A Comprehensive Obesity Benefit as a Guide for Employers on the Core Components of Obesity Care: Guidance From the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) Roundtable on Obesity,” was published in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in December of 2023. 

Novo Nordisk, Inc. supported this research.