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Small Business Digest


Nonprofit Teams Up With Firms to Fight Lethal, Costly Employee Obesity

In an environment where the latest, sobering statistics on the health of Americans and the costs of healthcare spending seem to be announced daily, TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) has become an increasingly visible partner in workplace wellness initiatives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, two-thirds of the population is now overweight, and as many as 72 million adults are considered obese.  Research has shown that as weight increases, the risks for these preventable, chronic conditions also increase:  coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, hypertension, stroke and more.  Obesity costs U.S. companies an estimated $13 billion a year and is associated with 39 million lost workdays.

To help temper this trend and increase overall wellness for its members, TOPS - a nonprofit weight-loss support organization - offers its own remedy in the form of "personal healthcare reform." With thousands of chapters and an annual membership fee of $26, TOPS can provide a flexible and affordable component to employers' workplace wellness efforts, lowering healthcare costs, reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity.

Workplace programs are designed to be cost-effective for companies and convenient for participants.  When a workplace chapter is formed, TOPS field staff meet with an organization's human-resources department or wellness supervisors to oversee the start-up and help to tailor a program that works for that specific group.  Weekly meetings are held right at the office, making it easy for members to attend.

With Americans spending the majority of their weekdays working with colleagues, members already know each other, fostering built-in trust and camaraderie. In fact, a recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that social ties directly influence obesity and health.

"In many ways, TOPS is the original form of 'social networking' as it applies to wellness," notes "Dr. Nick" Yphantides, M.D., M.P.H., medical spokesman for TOPS.  "The focus is on what I like to call, the 'SEA' model of personal transformation - support, encouragement and accountability.  If your workplace community is dedicated to becoming more active and healthy, it's likely that you, too, will become inspired to make over your health."

"Employers across the U.S. and Canada have started on-site TOPS chapters, as it is a convenient and financially accessible way for employees to take charge of their health and well-being," says Maggie Lehnert, TOPS's wellness-coordinator liaison.  "Not only do we teach members how to make healthy lifestyle choices, the TOPS-chapter environment provides the support and motivation members need to sustain these choices. It is this support that helped TOPS members to lose more than 476 tons of excess weight in one year alone."

"With companies watching their dollars now more than ever and seeking to maximize their investments, implementing just a few wellness initiatives can have a great impact on employees' health - and the bottom line," says Barbara Cady, TOPS president.

For more information about how TOPS can provide your business with workplace wellness-management opportunities, please contact Maggie Lehnert, TOPS wellness-coordinator liaison, at 414-482-4620, extension 23, or via e-mail at Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view or call 800-932-8677.

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