Tackling obesity in the workplace: a holistic approach to employee wellness

Novo Nordisk details the role of employers in enhancing corporate health plans

Tackling obesity in the workplace: a holistic approach to employee wellness

The modern workplace faces many challenges, but one of the most significant is the management of chronic diseases such as obesity, which is closely linked to numerous health conditions including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and depression1. Recognizing obesity as a chronic disease can transform health benefit plans, improving not only the physical health but also the mental wellbeing and productivity2 of employees.

The economic and health impact of obesity

Obesity isn't just a personal health issue; it's an economic burden too, costing billions in direct and indirect healthcare costs. In Canada, the economic burden of obesity was approximately $7.1 billion in 2010, split between $3.9 billion in direct medical costs and $3.2 billion in indirect costs due to disability, loss of productivity, or early death3. Obesity also increases the risk for many of the top health benefit cost drivers in the country1,4.

Addressing obesity in health benefit plans

Many Canadian employers' health benefit plans do not adequately cover treatments for obesity, leading to a gap in care. This lack of coverage can perpetuate the cycle of obesity and associated comorbidities, which further drive up health costs.

Employers can support their staff by ensuring that their health benefit plans align with the Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines5 and further detailed in materials provided by Novo Nordisk.

Incorporating comprehensive obesity management into workplace health benefit plans not only addresses the direct and indirect costs3 associated with the condition but also enhances employee productivity and well-being2. By correctly classifying obesity as a chronic disease and providing holistic support, employers can make a significant impact on the health of their workforce and the overall success of their organization.


1. Benefits Canada. What are the top chronic diseases in the workplace. Available at: https://www.benefitscanada.com/news/bencan/what-are-the-top-chronic-diseases-in-the-workplace/

2. Bustillos AS, et al. Work productivity among adults with varied Body Mass Index: Results from a Canadian population-based survey. Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health. 2015;5(2):191-199. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25922329/

3. Janssen I. The public health burden of obesity in Canada. Can J Diabetes. 2013;37(2):90- 96. 2. Anis AH, et al. Obesity and overweight in Canada: an updated cost of illness study. Obes Rev. 2010;11(1):31-40

4. Benefits Canada. Update benefits plans, workplace policies to treat obesity like any chronic disease. Available at: https://www.benefitscanada.com/benefits/health-benefits/update-benefits-plans-workplace-policies-to-treat-obesity-like-any-chronic-disease 

5. Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines. Available at: CMAJ: Obesity in adults: a clinical practice guideline | CMAJ