AS GOVERNMENT data confirms that obesity will cost the UK more than £27 billion by 2015, a new project conducted among employees at Gatwick Airport and published in Complete Nutrition reveals that workplace interventions really can make a positive impact on employee health.
Gatwick Airport conducted a 12-week work intervention trial among 35 shift-working security employees, which included advice on diet and physical activity, the provision of a free pedometer and motivational support during the 12-week project.
Consultant nutritionist Amanda Ursell gave employees a healthy eating plan including information such as including plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as foods known to enhance satiety. These included foods high in fibre, such as porridge, and those rich in protein, like eggs, pulses, fish and lean meat.
Alongside this, Gatwick Airport’s award-winning health and wellbeing caterers Charlton House provided simple healthy menu planning and access to lower calorie meals in the staff restaurants, plus signposting to encourage healthier meal consumption. Gatwick Airport Occupational Health Department also gave employees support and advice throughout the 12 week project.
At the end of the project there was an average overall reduction of 3kg in body weight and significant reductions in body mass index and waist circumference. Blood glucose levels reduced by approximately 8%, from an average value of 4.9 mmol/L to 4.5 mmol/L; while total cholesterol levels reduced from 5.0 mmol/L to 4.7 mmol/L. One participant diagnosed with type 2 diabetes successfully lowered his fasting glucose level to within the normal range within the 12 week trial period. Employees also reported feeling happier, had better sleep quality, self-efficacy (confidence in what they could achieve) and more satisfaction with exercise and leisure activities.
Nutritionist Amanda Ursell, who co-authored the report, says: “This project shows what, and how, we eat at work, coupled with support and guidance from employers, could significantly reduce the size, health and wellbeing of our workforce. As the trend to eat out of home continues, this research shows a workplace intervention programme that offers a holistic approach to diet and physical exercise can positively influence an employee’s approach to health and aid their personal wellbeing.”
Grant Payne at Gatwick Airport Ltd said “We are delighted this project supports the efforts of workplace interventions like our ‘Passport to Health’ programme and the positive impact they have on the health and wellbeing of our employees. We’re committed to developing our intervention programmes in partnership with our caterers Charlton House to ensure our employees continue to benefit.”
Dr Carrie Ruxton, who collaborated over the design, analysed data and co-authored the project, added: “We spend most of our waking hours at work so workplace interventions really do have the capacity to make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of employees. Gatwick’s ‘Passport to Health’ programme is a ringing endorsement of how an employer can positively influence employees’ approach to health and aid their personal wellbeing. More employers should follow their lead.”
Charlton House see this as a major opportunity for caterers and employers to support employees, align with Government ambitions and increase employers’ performance. Caroline Fry, CEO of Charlton House says “These findings present a fantastic opportunity for employers everywhere. There are two keys trends indicating we can play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of employees: firstly the number of meals eaten outside the home is continuing to rise and secondly issues such as weight management remain at the top of the nation’s health agenda. Everyone benefits from any successes we enjoy: improved health and wellbeing in employees is proven to reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, mood and self-esteem within the workforce. We are constantly striving for innovate ways to reduce salt, fat, calories and to provide a healthy, nutritious menu which is a contributing factor to a healthier individuals and for the overall workforce.”
Amanda Ursell is Principle Ambassador for the Health & Vitality Honours; a platform for businesses to showcase best practice and help to create best practice on the social issues of health and nutrition in the foodservice supply chain.