Obesity Prevention Program at The Dow Chemical Company

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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

Overview

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.

Evidence

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.

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