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Employers need to do more to tackle obesity

Employers need to do more to tackle Bermuda's obesity and diabetes epidemic, a healthcare expert has said.

David Kendell, Director of the Department of Health, suggested steps for employers to help reverse the trend at a presentation.

He said: “Developing a culture-first mentality means focusing on employees' total quality of life — including physical, mental, social, emotional and financial health.

“It is not just about convincing employees to join a weight loss programme because ‘everyone is doing it'.

“It's about connecting with people in ways that put lifestyle changes within easy reach, and encouraging them to support one another.”

He added: “To change culture we need groups of people doing things that are seen to be healthy — every day.”

Mr Kendell was speaking at the Hamilton Rotary Club on Tuesday.

He said he was disappointed that more employers did not attend the Department of Health's symposium last month on halting the rise of diabetes and obesity.

He added: “Halting the rise in obesity and diabetes is considered one of the most important public health challenges now confronting the Western world.

“In Bermuda, 75 per cent of our population is overweight or obese and that is why it is considered a health crisis.

“Currently, 12.2 per cent of the population has diabetes, one of the highest rates in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.”

Mr Kendell said obesity was not a simple problem with an obvious solution.

But he emphasised that it is preventable, along with diabetes.

He added: “By telling you this I want to encourage more employers to get more engaged on creating a culture of wellbeing and health in their workplaces.”

Mr Kendell said: “I am the director of a large government department with 280 employees and I will be the first to admit that I have more work to do to help and encourage my staff to achieve healthy weight.

“The struggle is real and I know that I am not the only employer looking for solutions.”

Mr Kendell said steps towards good health and fitness at work included the creation an oversight committee, proper resources and assessment of the culture of the workplace.

He added that it was also vital for staff to be motivated to make changes and suggested special training as a way for employers to identify bad habits.

Mr Kendell said: “By observing and understanding the cues, routines and rewards employees are empowered to overlay old habits with new ones that serve them better.” He also highlighted the importance of getting enough rest and highlighted to e-mail policies adopted in Germany.

Mr Kendell said: “The German labour ministry's rules only allow contact if the task cannot be postponed until the next working day — in other words in an emergency. It's in the interests of employers that workers can switch off from their jobs, otherwise, in the long run, they burn out.”

He also suggested the creation of a more active environment and that employers adopt the idea of walking meetings.

Mr Kendell said: “Active commuting to work is something that employers might encourage and support more locally, whether through providing showers and changing rooms or places to secure pedal cycles.”

Other suggestions included the replacement of soda machines with a water-only policy, a ban on snacks in hallways and at desks and healthy food and drink at corporate meetings.

Mr Kendell added that employers can e-mail health@gov.bm if they want to make a commitment on behalf of their company.

Quality of life: David Kendell wants employers to help to reverse bad health (File photograph)

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Published February 15, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 15, 2018 at 7:45 am)

Employers need to do more to tackle obesity

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