Obesity Prevention Program at The Dow Chemical Company


Categories associated with best practice:

  • Young Adult (ages 19-24) icon
  • Adult (ages 25-64) icon
  • Best Practices
  • Employment and working conditions
  • English
  • Healthy Eating
  • Obesity Prevention
  • Physical Activity
  • Social environments
  • Workplace

Determinants of Health: Employment and working conditions, Social environments


Intervention: The intervention was carried out between 2006 and 2008 at Dow Chemical Company, a large science and technology enterprise with sites in different US states. The intervention consisted of changing the workplace environment to increase employees’ level of physical activity, improve nutrition and manage weight. It required senior management buy-in to change policies and encourage leadership development (creating ‘health ambassadors’) to increase commitment for engaging workers in embracing an overall workplace wellness ‘culture’. This approach included aligning business objectives with employee health objectives.

Environmental intervention were “guided by the following principles: use components that are evidence-based, inexpensive, and can be broadly
applied and sustained in a variety of work settings” (Goetzel, 2009, p.5). The “combination of two elements had shown to be effective in altering dietary and physical activity behaviors: 1) environmental prompts that encourage employees to make healthy food choices and be physically active; and 2) point-of-choice messages to encourage healthy eating and physical activity, such as the use of signs strategically located in front of stairwells, vending machines, and cafeterias” (Goetzel 2009, p. 5-6).

To intensify intended health outcomes environmental organizational level interventions were combined with individual level health promotion programs already established at the company. The available services consisted of health assessment and consultation, health education, physical activity and weight management programs including pedometer use, as well as online behaviour change programs.


Study objective: “Test whether employees at worksites that implemented environmental interventions, in addition to standard individually-oriented programs, would achieve greater reductions in weight, BMI, and the prevalence of overweight and obesity” (Goetzel et al., 2010, p. 3).

The study applied a quasi-experimental design, testing three groups: high intensity, moderate intervention groups and control group. It was carried out at a large US company (Dow Chemical) and involved 12 sites with a participation of over 10,000 workers. Study participants in both intervention and control groups were offered a health risk assessment (HRA) and biometric screening program. Data from these assessments were used in the study and repeated after one and two years of intervention implementation. Each participant received individual feedback about potential health risks and education about how to address and minimize the risks.

Findings after two years showed that “the high and moderate-intensity groups maintained their weight and BMI, while the control group employees gained an average of 1.3 pounds (p;<;.01) and their BMI increased an average of 0.2 points (p<.01). While the net difference in average weight between the high-intensity and control groups was significant at 1.5 pounds (p<.05), the net difference between the moderate intensity and control group subjects’ weight of 1.3 pounds was not significant. After controlling for site effects, the net difference in average weight and BMI was significant (p<.05) for both the high and moderate-intensity employees compared to controls. No significant impact on rates of overweight and obesity was found for either the moderate or intense group subjects, with and without controlling for site effects” (Goetzel et al. 2010, p. 8). In addition improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels also were observed in the intervention groups compared to controls.

In summary, the evidence indicates that only the intense version of the workplace intervention had the desired effect of weight management.

Primary Source Document

Goetzel, EC Roemer, X Pei, ME Short, MJ Tabrizi, MG Wilson, CM Baase, MG Wilson, DM DeJoy, BA Craun, KJ Tully, JM White, CM Baase, Second-year results of an obesity prevention program at the Dow Chemical Company Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Contact information of developer(s) and/or implementer(s)

Dow Health services; Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University; Department of Health Promotion & Behavior, College of Public Health, University of Georgia

Intervention Focus

Intervention Goal / ObjectiveLevel(s) TargetedEquity Focus
To determine whether two years of exposure to environmental interventions would achieve more pronounced and long-standing changes in employees’ health risks and behaviours.
  • Individual level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
To evaluate the differential effects of intervention dose, or intensity, comparing changes in each of the outcomes for employees at high-intensity and moderate-intensity sites to those of employees at control sites.
  • Organizational level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.

Health Issue(s) that is/are addressed by the Intervention

Health Promotion

  • Healthy Eating
  • Physical Activity
  • Obesity Prevention

Risk Reduction

  • Other

Specific Activities of the Intervention

  • Information sessions offered about a risk factor or condition
  • Other

Priority/Target Population for Intervention Delivery

Life Stage

  • Young adult (age 19-24 years)
  • Adults (age 25-64 years)


Educational Settings

    Community Setting

    • Workplace




    Implementation History

    • Multiple implementations - Different settings/populations/providers - The intervention showed significant adaptability as it has been implemented in different settings or with different populations or by different provider(s). This can include multiple implementations during the same time period. Each implementation of the intervention must have been substantially the same and must have demonstrated positive results for the primary objectives of the intervention.

    Expertise Required for Implementation within the Context of the Intervention

    • Requires specialzed skills that are rarely accessible within the context - The intervention requires the participation of personnel with advanced skills (e.g. medical doctors, epidemiologists, social workers) and that are rarely accessible within the intervention context.

    Are there supports available for implementation


    Are there resources and/or products associated with the interventions