Obese employee participation patterns in a wellness program

Jennifer T Fink, Aurora Health Care
David R Smith
Maharaj Singh, Aurora Health Care
Doug M Ihrke
Ron A Cisler, Aurora Health Care


The purpose of this research was to retrospectively examine whether demographic differences exist between those who participated in an employee wellness program and those who did not, and to identify the selection of employees' choice in weight management activities. A nonequivalent, 2-group retrospective design was used. This study involved employees at a large, not-for-profit integrated health system. Of the total organization employee pool (29,194), 19,771 (68%) employees volunteered to be weighed (mean body mass index [BMI]=28.9) as part of an employee wellness program. Weight management activities available included: (1) Self-directed 5% total body weight loss; (2) Healthy Solutions at home; (3) Weight Watchers group meetings; (4) Weight Watchers online; and (5) Employee Assistance Program (EAP)-directed healthy weight coaching. Measures were participation rate and available weight management activity participation rate among obese employees across demographic variables, including sex, age, race, job type, and job location. The analysis included chi-square tests for all categorical variables; odds ratios were calculated to examine factors predictive of participation. Of the total 19,771 employees weighed, 6375 (32%) employees were obese (defined as BMI ≥30); of those, 3094 (49%) participated in available weight management activities. Participation was higher among females, whites, those ages >50 years, and non-nursing staff. In conclusion, participation rate varied significantly based on demographic variables. Self-directed 5% weight loss was the most popular weight management activity selected. (Population Health Management 2016;19:132-135).