Spotlight: Employers must implement weight control programme

As a precautionary step to cut down the healthcare costs offered by employers to the staff, each institution should pursue strategies to control the costs. One crucial step is to address the lifestyle risks like reducing obesity to lower the incidence and severity of chronic illnesses and the associated demand for health services.

One prominent successful experience in Oman in the weight loss controlled programmes is applied by the military.

The annual weight checkup for staff forces employees weighing more than 100 kg to apply a strict diet and exercise programme. By the end of each week, the number of kilos the employees had lost determines if he/she deserves a weekly holiday or not. This is besides other incentives.

Other employers should also adopt comprehensive health promotion or weight management programmes. Some of the barriers they might face include lack of employee interest, lack of resources, and lack of management support. However, institutions shouldn’t stop tackling these issues,” say specialists.

They also explain that employers should provide environmental support for healthy lifestyles, including, for example, healthy onsite dining, catering, open stairwells, walking paths, encouraging physical activity and break rooms with stretching aids.  The same initiative should be enforced in schools. New standards for school meals and recommendations for physical activity are starting to move things in the right direction.

Healthy interventions in schools are associated with positive changes in children’s weight, physical activity levels, nutrition knowledge, and improvements in their eating behaviour. As now noticed, mothers give their children a healthy meal to take to school, after finding that some schools offer only chocolates and chips.

“I talked to my child’s kindergarten administration to change the type of meals offered to them in the breaks. They said that there is a plan to change the meal to a healthy one but they are still taking the suggestions of parents.

Until then, I will prepare a meal to my son to take to school,” says Muna al Abri, a mother. Teachers and schools have a limited ability to influence family eating habits and exercise routines.

But there are innovative schools offering workshops and incentives for families to learn about nutrition and exercise and their benefits.

Fatma bint al Khatab School in the Wilayat of Al Hamra is an example. It launched a programme named ‘Challenge’ to motivate obese students to reduce their weights.

While Azza al Abri, a nutrition specialist at al Hamra Basic Education School, says “The nurse in the school measures the weights of students and then she sends obese students to the health centre for tests like diabetes, blood pressure and thyroid. Accordingly, we give each student the appropriate diet to follow. The sports teacher follows up their activity on a daily basis. The students who achieve the
target are awarded.”