If obesity and weight-related issues are the primary drivers of American health care costs, Weight Watchers believes it is uniquely qualified to help companies trim the fat.

“There really is no other behavior modification program out there like Weight Watchers,” said strategic sales manager Laura March.

Speaking with Employee Benefit News at the National Conference on Health, Productivity and Human Capital in Washington last week, March and Weight Watchers vice president Tom Futch said that overweight workforces becoming a top C-suite concern.

“One of the biggest challenges that corporate executives and HR and benefits [personnel] have now is getting their hands around the issue of obesity and weight-management conditions with individuals,” Futch said. “So companies are coming to us and asking us to take that tried-and-true, science-based program that we have and deliver it into corporations.”

Futch told EBN that Weight Watchers have “not gone down the path of cafeteria programs at this point, or vending programs,” choosing instead to focus on the individual and group sessions and platforms that the company has honed for more than 50 years.

“Our program is not a diet,” Futch said. “We teach individuals how to eat within the lifestyle that they’re going to sustain for the rest of their life. And that includes not only nutrition, but also how active they are during the day.

“Typically what happens is our account team works at the top of the company to collaborate with them to develop their programs,” he continued. So that might include how to integrate into their health benefit and plan design, it might developing a subsidy program.”

According to a new study conducted by Baruch College and funded by the National Institutes of Health, results remain competitive. The research claims those who used Weight Watchers’ methods for a 48-week period shed more pounds than groups who used behavioral weight loss treatment or a combination of the two methods.

Of course, no one can get in shape only at the office. Onsite gyms and low-calorie lunches are great, but people need health lifestyles everywhere, March said, which is why many employers offer not just workplace meetings and support, but financially supported external attention.

“So they’re paying monthly for the Weight Watchers meeting membership that we call the monthly pass, and they have the option of going at work, in the community, as often as they want,” March says. “We also have an online and mobile platform. So, again, members can follow the program entirely online. We have an app … as well as a barcode scanner,” she added, so the program is as mobile as its participant.

And, perhaps most importantly, good habits spread. Futch said Weight Watchers often seeks to involve spouses in its networks, but even beyond that, an employee who starts eating right and exercising could help combat a growing social ill: childhood obesity.

“We get this a lot,” Futch said of questions about helping younger over-eaters. “… This starts at home; this starts with the family. We believe this very firmly: with corporations, if we’re helping the parents change the behaviors, live the healthy lifestyle, that’s going to pass down into family.”

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