How can small businesses effectively encourage a healthy lifestyle among their employees? Center and University of Washington researchers seek to find out by conducting an obesity-prevention study with about 30 medium to small worksites in the business community of south-central Seattle. Researchers, led by Dr. Shirley Beresford of the Public Health Sciences Division, will mainly recruit worksites in which employees have blue-collar jobs or roles traditionally associated with women.
The MOVE 'M (Move and Moderate in Balance) Study will examine simple, cost-effective ways in which businesses can help their employees prevent obesity and maintain a healthy weight. Strategies will include worksite-wide events and initiatives that emphasize healthy food options and increased opportunities for physical activity.
The study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to raise awareness, enhance motivation and support newly adopted skills among employees to help create a working environment that is conducive to promoting better food choices and increasing physical activity.
In coming weeks, Center researchers will contact local business leaders within the 98144 and 98118 ZIP codes to ask for their help in an advisory capacity to enhance local support for the project and to identify key individuals to participate in focus groups.
Program tailored to company needs
The two-year study will involve worksites ranging in size between 15 and 75 employees. Half of the worksites will be randomly assigned to implement the weight-management intervention program, while half will receive no intervention and serve as a comparison, or control, group. However, when the study is complete, the comparison worksites will offer the weight-management program in a condensed form, as a delayed intervention.
"We look forward to working with companies to tailor the program to individual company needs," Beresford said. 'We have formed long-lasting partnerships with companies in the greater Seattle area in worksite-health studies — partnerships that have been valuable and enjoyable to both company representatives and our staff. As we embark on this study in a limited geographical area, we are really counting on strong community support for this work. It will add significantly to our arsenal to combat the growing obesity epidemic."
The MOVE 'M Study is modeled on its predecessors: the Seattle 5-A-Day Study, designed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption; and the PACE Study, designed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and to improve energy balance (the difference between calories consumed vs. calories needed to support the usual level of physical activity). Both are federally funded worksite-intervention studies currently ongoing in larger businesses throughout greater Seattle.