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North Carolina’s Obesity Prevention Report

It is acknowledged that obesity is a growing concern within our nation. Now, more than ever, is it critical for individuals, families, and communities to become educated about health and wellness, exercise, and nutrition. As society disputes ways to alleviate high health care costs, there is still an overwhelming number of employees out of work due to illnesses caused by lack of adequate nutrition. Companies are losing valuable employees as well as taking a loss in productivity because those employees that are able to work cannot do so at the capacity they once could.

Employers that want to build better reputations, increase productivity, and have healthier and happier employees are starting to introduce the concept of advocating for a healthier lifestyle. Health promotion is an ever growing movement around the world, and is now setting roots within many workplace environments. This growth resulted because research suggests that workplace health promotion reaches the largest audience: the working adults.

Employers seek constant economic benefit within companies, but with chronic illnesses, including obesity, so prevalent among young and middle adults, these public and private sector employers are taking a huge loss in profit and, more importantly, valuable employees. One solution to alleviate the burden of high health care costs, increase efficiency, and have happier employees is by mandating nutrition promotion seminars within the workplace. BACKGROUND Furthermore, health problems are widely prevalent among state government agencies which employ over 85,000 workers within North Carolina.

The issue of obesity and other chronic diseases among employees of the state is so common, in fact, that North Carolina created a prevention plan to address it. Eat Smart, Move More NC and North Carolina’s Obesity Prevention Plan 2013-2020 work in conjunction with one another to help those working for the state and local government gain access to resources for healthy eating and physical activity (Eat Smart, Move More NC, 2013). It must be addressed that North Carolina has the fourteenth highest adult obesity rate with two-thirds of the adult population being overweight and obese.

Along with these statistics, 40. 8 percent of adults consume fruit less than one time per day, and 22 percent eat vegetables less than one time a day. These issue must come to the forefront, as the obesity and overweight percentages have doubled within the past twenty years and will only be improved with strict policy changes in nutritional education and promotion within the workplace of these adults. As seen in the methods of the Eat Smart, Move More campaign, all health promotion within the workplace is voluntary for employers.

But, in order to dramatically improve the state’s statistics, nutrition and health promotion need to be mandatory (Eat Smart, Move More NC, 2013). Healthy People 2020 created health promotion objectives aimed at improving the proportion of employers who offer some type of nutrition and health education for their employees. Since the trend in health promotion is becoming more and more popular among worksites, data is continually being analyzed on who has already enacted programs, how many employees participate, and what the effects of these programs have on the health of the participants.

It is clear that research already conducted and released has found that these programs are beneficial to the employee and employer, as well as effective in their practice if Healthy People 2020 set goals to grow in this field. If any change in the obesity, chronic disease, and fruit and vegetable consumption statistics wants to be noteworthy, it is imperative to have a policy that allows for a nutrition program in the workplace to be required by the government (Education and Community-Based Programs, 2010).

Oftentimes choosing an unhealthy option over a more expensive healthy option is common practice among those on a strict budget, increasing the risk for chronic illnesses. Many state government workers are paid low wages and work long hours, thus being restricted by these factors when making meal plan decisions (Hammerback et al. , 2015). In order to aid in the burden of buying and cooking healthy foods on a low budget, my proposed policy change is to create a nutrition promotion program which will be used by the Eat Smart, Move More campaign, and will require all North Carolina state government employers to enact it within the workplace.

The program will follow many of the guidelines that programs in Eat Smart, Move More NC use, including the use of evidence-based strategies for promotion and data to set goals. The proposed program will make use of these guidelines because they are well research and have been able to show improvements in the rates of those with obesity. Logistics The program will be designed so that employees will learn the benefits of a healthy, well-balanced diet, as well as how to prepare and shop for foods that meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The program will take place once every other month in each working sector during some workers’ one hour lunch break, while other government workers (e. g. teachers) will stay after work for a maximum of one and a half hours to participate in the education and demonstration session. Each session will consist of a lesson which will change month-to-month, for example: vegetables for January then meat and meat substitutes for March, or protein for May then fats for July. In order to meet all the requirements and demand of the program, a team of experts will host each meeting.

This team will consist of either one registered dietitian or nutrition consultant and a group of nutrition student volunteers enrolled at a local college (university or community). As the registered dietitian or nutrition consultant teaches the lesson to the employees, the students will demonstrate how to put the lesson into actual practice by cooking short, easy meals. These meals will represent healthy foods that government employees can afford, will have the time to cook, and contribute significant nutritional value.

Based on data from Canada, only forty percent of employers offered a health promotion program for employees, and only forty-five percent of those employees actually took advantage of the program (Lowe, 2014). These statistics show how little use such programs get when not required, so by creating the policy to require all employers to enact the program, participation will rise and obesity rates will lower. Although employers are required to enact the program, employees are not required to attend the bi-monthly sessions.

In order to increase participation and attendance, an incentive for the employees will be a fifty dollar grocery store gift card if he/she attends five out of the six yearly meetings. Because government workers are often low wage, this small incentive should drive employees to attend the meetings. Partnerships, Timeframe, and Cost This program will partner with the North Carolina Division of Public Health, the same sector that promotes Eat Smart, Move More NC.

By partnering with this government agency, funding for the program will be better attainable through grants and other health funders that already sponsor such efforts (Eat Smart, Move More NC, 2013). The timeframe of the proposed policy to be enacted and started throughout all North Carolina government offices is three years, as this should allow enough time to create goals and plans for the program, hire all personnel, obtain the funding, and get the word out about the policy. Moreover, the program will be costly, as there are over 85,000 employees working for the state of North Carolina.

For personnel, fifty-seven registered dietitians would be needed, each having an annual average salary of $52,000, thus costing about three million a year. It is estimated that 65,000 workers meet the requirement for the incentive, which would cost $3. 25 million a year. Marketing of the program would be added to the marketing for Eat Smart, Move More NC, costing an extra one million a year. As each session requires a food demonstration, every registered dietitian will be allotted a budget of $1,500 a year for food, costing $85,500 a year.

All of these components combined will result in a cost of $7,335,500 yearly for the nutrition promotion program to be required throughout all North Carolina government institutions. Although this cost may seem expensive, it is found that medical costs for workers drops over three dollars for every dollar spend on a health promotion program, and the cost of employees being absent from the job drops about three dollars for every dollar spent (Baicker & Song, 2010).

These figures show that investing in such a program will not only be beneficial for the wellbeing of employees of the state, but will also alleviate high health care costs. Advantages and Outcomes There are several advantages of this policy proposal, including: required nutrition education sessions, short time for sessions, and it targets mostly low-wage employees. Along with these, it is important to note that since this program is partnering with Eat Smart, Move More NC, there are many ways in which employees can get education and other resources needed to start a healthy lifestyle, not only consisting of nutritional practices.

It is well researched that having a health promotion program with many intervention strategies and different educational topics had better outcomes than those strictly promotion just physical activity or just nutrition (Maes et al. , 2011). Some potential outcomes could be both positive and negative, but research conducted on health promotion programs concludes that employees experienced long-term reductions in BMI and other health-related factors (Maes et al. 2011).

As this policy specifically addresses nutrition and is required, it is hopeful that more employees will attend the sessions and will begin eating healthier, well-balanced meals regularly. ARGUMENTS Health experts and those alike promote the practice of healthy eating, exercise, and education within the workplace because research suggests that these programs have positive effects on employee health more often than not.

All health professionals, including, but not limited to: medical doctors, nurses, registered dietitians, physical and occupational therapists, mental health counselors, etc. , would want to see a change among the working adults since each of these professionals strive to make healthier changes within their patients every day. It is important that there be notable change in obesity and other chronic disease rates within both North Carolina and the United States.

Those opposing the promotion of nutrition education in the workplace might be large industries that promote unhealthy foods and drinks. These foods and drinks from corporations are often found in vending machines around workplaces, and are purchased many times as a cheaper alternative to healthier food options. With the policy change, these corporations might see a decline in sales in the state of North Carolina, thus leading to a decline in profit overall because employees are learning how to budget their money in order to make healthier meal plan choices.

Although it would be more beneficial to attend educational sessions in person and be given the chance to ask questions and interact with professionals in the field, one proposed alternative to the policy change would be hosting the program online. This alternative could allow more convenience for employees with busy schedules, but could also result in less dramatic effects of the program. If the originally proposed program is too costly, this would be an idea that would carry the same principle, but reduce the overall cost.

Furthermore, it cannot be stressed enough that a change needs to take place in order to lower the towering statistics on obesity, and this policy will dramatically help with that. With the release of recent research suggesting how effective health promotion within the workplace is, it is critical that employers enact this nutrition program. It is easy to positively promote healthy eating and cooking within these environments, but the educational component on nutrition will instill more proactive diet habits into the lives of these employees.

Again, it is with great hope that this policy will result in such changes that other states will adopt the program and implement it within government offices. If this were to happen, the rate of employee absences will drop, productivity in the workplace and all around the United States will increase, employees will gain an understanding on how vital a healthy and well-balanced diet is, health care costs will drop because employees will learn how to cook healthy meals for themselves and their families, and individuals will lead happier and healthier lifestyles for years to come.

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