78 percent of hospital workers in Houston are overweight or obese

January 30, 2017, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Seventy-eight percent 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 technicians.

"Seventy-eight percent 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, such as elevated glucose and lipids, this calls for immediate intervention to prevent chronic diseases," said Shreela Sharma, Ph.D., R.D., 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 , 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. Sixty-five percent of participants reported no days of and 48 percent reported no days of . 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 weekends.

"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," said Sharma.

Nearly 79 percent 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 and healthy eating, such as healthy vending machine options and accessible walking paths.

"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.

Explore further: Parent's physical activity associated with preschooler activity in underserved populations

Related Stories

Parent's physical activity associated with preschooler activity in underserved populations

January 9, 2017
Preschool-age children from low-income families are more likely to be physically active if parents increase activity and reduce sedentary behavior while wearing movement monitors (accelerometers), according to a Vanderbilt ...

Negative body image, not depression, increases adolescent obesity risk

November 9, 2015
Negative body image significantly increases the risk of obesity regardless of whether youth have depression, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public ...

Overweight firefighters more likely to attempt weight loss if advised by doctor

September 22, 2015
Overweight firefighters are twice as likely to attempt to lose weight if their health care provider gives them weight loss advice, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) ...

Worked-based wellness programs reduce weight, study finds

March 30, 2015
A new study shows that workplace wellness programs can be effective in helping people lose weight by providing healthier food choices and increasing opportunities for physical activity, particularly if these efforts are designed ...

Research shows that Brighter Bites helps children, families eat healthier

August 2, 2016
Brighter Bites, a school-based program that combines the distribution of donated produce with nutritional education and a fun food experience for low-income families in food desert areas, was successful in improving the intake ...

Obese employees cost employers thousands in extra medical costs

May 14, 2014
A new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion finds that, on average, a morbidly obese employee costs an employer over $4,000 more per year in health care and related costs than an employee who is of normal weight.

Recommended for you

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

Electronic health records don't reduce administrative costs

February 21, 2018
The federal government thought that adopting certified electronic health record systems (EHR) would reduce administrative costs for physicians in a variety of specialties. However, a major new study conducted by researchers ...

Low-fat or low-carb? It's a draw, study finds

February 20, 2018
New evidence from a study at the Stanford University School of Medicine might dismay those who have chosen sides in the low-fat versus low-carb diet debate.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.