Obesity is linked to cardiometabolic risks, such as
elevated glucose and lipids. 78% of employees at Houston hospitals are
overweight or obese, according to a study by researchers at The
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School
of Public Health. The research results were published recently in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Employees from six hospitals across Houston, with the exception of
physicians, were invited to participate in a survey about their health
status and diet in 2012. A total of 924 employees responded to the
survey, most of whom classified themselves as hospital administrators or
‘With 78% of hospital workers in Houston being overweight or obese, it highlights the need for hospital employers to better understand, support and nurture the health of their employees.’
"78% is higher than the national average but not
shocking because our study probably attracted employees who wanted to
lose weight. Regardless, it is troubling because these are hospital
employees active in the workforce and we need them to be healthy.
Because obesity is linked to so many cardiometabolic risks this calls for immediate intervention to
prevent chronic diseases," said Shreela Sharma, first
author on the paper and associate professor in the Department of
Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth
School of Public Health.
According to the results, there was no significant difference in the
intake of fruits and vegetables among normal weight, overweight and
obese participants, which was generally low across all groups. However,
as compared to those of normal weight, obese participants had
significantly higher daily consumption of white potatoes such as French
fries, regular fat foods (versus reduced or low fat), sugary beverages
and added butter and margarine.
Overall, most participants in the study led a sedentary lifestyle. 65% of participants reported no days of vigorous physical
activity and 48% reported no days of moderate physical activity.
However, overweight and obese participants spent more time on sedentary
behaviors such as watching television. Obese participants also spent
more time playing computer games and sitting during the week and on
"It's not just about what you don't do or don't eat. Behaviors have
an additive effect - obesity can happen not just because you didn't eat
enough fruits and vegetables, but because you also ate more fried foods
and foods that are higher in fat; and not just because you weren't very
active, but also because you were sedentary more often," said Sharma,
who is also a faculty member with the Michael & Susan Dell Center
for Healthy Living at the School of Public Health.
Hospital workers are part of a group that suffers from what Sharma calls "the nurturer effect."
"People who take care of others on a regular basis are generally
less likely to take care of themselves. The focus of hospitals is on
patient care so sometimes the workers' own care can take a back seat,"
Nearly 79% of survey participants were dissatisfied with
their worksite wellness programs and dissatisfaction was highest among
obese participants. Given that employees are spending a majority of
their waking hours at work, Sharma recommends further investment in
worksite-based strategies to promote physical activity and healthy
eating, such as healthy vending machine options and accessible walking
"These results highlight the need for hospital employers to better
understand, support and nurture the health of their employees," said
Sharma, who added that the local hospitals are interested and invested
in employee wellness.