Novo Nordisk on integrating obesity management into workplace health benefits

An overlooked aspect of employee well-being highlights imperative for comprehensive coverage

Novo Nordisk on integrating obesity management into workplace health benefits

This article was produced in partnership with Novo Nordisk.

While there is certainly ample literature touting the importance of the health and well-being of employees; there's a glaring oversight in the way workplace health benefits address obesity. When individuals face health challenges, they naturally look to their workplace benefits for support.

However, those living with obesity often find themselves at a disadvantage, with little to no benefits coverage available to them. This is particularly concerning given the evolving nature of obesity treatment and the existence of effective management solutions that could be included in benefits plans.

Novo Nordisk Canada Inc. has taken a leadership role on how to support employees living with obesity in the workplace. Obesity isn't just a standalone issue; it's intricately linked with many chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and mental health disorders 1,3.

This interconnectedness underscores a critical gap in benefits coverage. Since many serious health conditions associated with obesity are already covered under benefits plans, expanding coverage to include obesity management as a preventative measure is not only logical but necessary.

The misclassification of obesity

A common oversight among decision-makers is failing to recognize obesity as a chronic disease. This fundamental misunderstanding leads to its incorrect classification in benefit plans, resulting in inadequate access to necessary care for those affected. Correctly classifying obesity in the workplace is not merely an administrative change; it's a step towards potentially reducing absenteeism and presenteeism2.

The economic impact of chronic illnesses

Obesity is a key risk factor for many of the top chronic illnesses that drive up health benefit plan costs in Canada3, including depression, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and various inflammatory conditions3. Notably, a 13 percent reduction in weight can dramatically reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 414 percent. These statistics underscore the critical need for obesity medication coverage in Canadian health benefit plans.

The case for obesity medication coverage

Despite the growing demand, many Canadians with private drug insurance lack access to Health Canada approved medications through their benefit plans. This gap in coverage is more than just a healthcare issue; it's an economic one. Obesity, being the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes1, incurs significant costs to employers due to reduced productivity and missed work, amounting to approximately $1,4545 per employee with type 2 diabetes per year. Moreover, obesity's impact on mental health adds another layer of economic burden, with the cost of mental illnesses related to workplace losses estimated at $6.46 billion annually.

The argument for including obesity medication in health benefit plans is compelling, especially when considering that the cost of covering these medications compared to the cost of treating obesity-associated comorbidities. For example, the average monthly cost of obesity medication per 1,000 covered lives is estimated to be $0.79 per covered life per month, or less than $10 per covered life per year7.

Supporting employees living with obesity

People living with obesity often face social challenges and discrimination in the workplace, affecting their self-esteem8 and productivity2. The struggle with obesity extends beyond achieving weight loss; maintaining that loss poses an even greater challenge. Remarkably, only 1 in 5 individuals living with obesity who manage to reduce their body weight by 10 percent can keep this weight off for at least one year through diet and exercise alone9.

To effectively support employees living with obesity, it's essential to provide evidence-based supports that align with the Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines10. These supports include: medical nutrition therapy involving personalized counseling by a registered dietitian, exercise accommodation, psychological support through cognitive approaches to behavioral change and psychotherapy, where appropriate; medications for weight loss and maintenance; and bariatric surgery where appropriate.

Both employers and employees should persist in their advocacy for enhanced coverage, ensuring that individuals facing obesity do not feel neglected when seeking assistance from their benefits plans.

Contact Novo Nordisk Canada Inc. at [email protected] to learn more about how to support employees living with obesity in the workplace.


  1. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. International Journal of Obesity.
  5. Reducing the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Through Workplace Programs. Diabetes Canada. Accessed from
  6. Mental Health Commission of Canada
  7. Based in part on data obtained under license from IQVIA Solutions Canada Inc. (IQVIA), concerning the following information service(s): Carrier Data for the Anti-Obesity Market, January 2019 – September 2022.
  9. Wing RR, Phelan S. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82(1 Suppl):222S–225
  10. CMAJ. 2020 August 4;192:E875-91. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.191707