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The obesity epidemic in Quebec: using the workplace as a lever for intervention

On World Diabetes Day (November 13th), the Institut national de santé publique du Québec made a tool available online that allows us to understand the progression of obesity in Quebec. It shows that from 1978 to 2018, the proportion of obese adults increased from 14% to 23%.

On World Diabetes Day (November 13th), the Institut national de santé publique du Québec made a tool available online that allows us to understand the progression of obesity in Quebec. It shows that from 1978 to 2018, the proportion of obese adults increased from 14% to 23%. 
 
 
In children, the progression is even more alarming since, during the same period, the proportion increased from 2% to 10%.
 
Behind this phenomenal increase are the proliferation of fast food restaurants, an increase in the size of restaurant portions, the sedentarization of leisure activities with the advent of the Internet and social networks, urban sprawl that encourages the use of cars for travel and the sedentarization of work activities. Between 1961 and today, the proportion of jobs that require a moderate level of physical activity decreased from 50% to 20%.
 
A study published in 2016 by the Canadian Journal of Public Health revealed that the estimated cost of obesity to the Quebec health system was nearly $3 billion. Of this amount, $1.4 billion was spent on hospital costs, $860 million on drugs, $110 million on medical visits and $630 million on sick leave lasting more than one week. An obese person is also 94% more likely to be hospitalized and 13% more likely to see a doctor than a person with a healthy weight.
 
To deal with this real “epidemic” that is now present everywhere in the world, we must put in place measures to make our environments more conducive to healthy eating and leading a physically active lifestyle.
 
The workplace is a particularly favourable environment for taking action since the majority of the active adult population spends half of their waking time there. In addition, companies are also victim to the consequences of obesity, which is reflected in a 40% increase in absenteeism and a 42% increase in presenteeism for obese workers.
 
To effectively combat the problem, workplaces must implement a combination of measures, including:
 
–  Promoting healthy eating, an active lifestyle and proper sleep, in both quantity and quality
– Adopting measures that help make the physical and organizational environment conducive to the adoption of healthy habits by their employees
 
Many of our Service Providers offer interventions that promote the maintenance or return to a healthy weight. The implementation of a structured “Healthy Enterprise” approach, as promoted in measure 3.3 of the government of Quebec's preventive health policy (Politique gouvernementale de prévention en santé), is an effective way to intervene.
 
The Healthy Enterprises Group proposes such an approach based on best practices to initiate or improve actions focused on health and well-being, in addition to providing recognition in this respect. Taking things a step further, the Healthy Enterprise Standard (BNQ 9700-800) is unprecedented in the field as it offers companies the possibility of receiving a certification from Quebec's national standards board (Bureau de normalisation du Québec–BNQ).
 
Mario Messier, MD
Scientific director, Healthy Enterprises Group
 
Sources:
https://www.inspq.qc.ca/nouvelles/une-ligne-du-temps-pour-comprendre-la-progression-de-l-obesite-au-quebec
The economic consequences of obesity and overweight among adults in Quebec. Chantal Blouin et al. Canadian Journal of Public Health, vol 107, No 6 (2016).
State level estimates of obesity-attributable cost of absenteeism. Tatiana Andreyeva et al. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine/American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2014
Presenteeism According to Healthy Behaviors, Physical Health, and Work Environment, Ray M. Merrill, PhD, MPH, et al…Population Health Management, Volume 00, Number 00, 2012.
https://www.passeportsante.net/fr/Maux/Problemes/Fiche.aspx?doc=obesite-pm-prevention-de-l-obesite
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