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State and School Employees Slim Down

Weight Watchers helps Oregon's public employees meet weight loss goals
November 26, 2013
Over the last four years, state employees and public education employees have dropped nearly half a million pounds via Weight Watchers classes offered as a benefit through the Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB) and the Oregon Educators Benefit Board (OEBB).  And that’s only the pounds lost by those who attend Weight Watchers-At-Work meetings; it doesn’t include weight loss figures by PEBB and OEBB members who attend Weight Watchers meetings in the community or online.    “We do not have weight loss statistics from community meetings or online meetings but those (meetings) are well utilized,” Joan Kapowich, administrator of OEBB said.   Since January 2009, when the state added the benefit for state employees, PEBB members have lost 223,348 pounds. While the benefit wasn’t available to public education employees until October 2010, OEBB members who’ve utilized the Weight Watchers classes have lost 255,065 pounds.   “I am so thankful that our insurance covers Weight Watchers. If it wasn't covered, I would have never discovered how life-changing of a program that Weight Watcher's is,” Sue Morgan with the Jefferson County School District said. “I have lost 60 pounds and have never once felt deprived, or like I was on a diet!  This program is so flexible, and that is what makes it work!”   One PEBB member shared how they finally found results with Weight Watchers.   “Thanks to PEBB making Weight Watchers part of our benefits, I have successfully lost 88 pounds!  I have tried everything before, Atkins, fasting, liquid diets and nothing worked.  I am halfway to my goal weight now because of Weight Watchers!”   Another PEBB member told of how Weight Watchers has had a broader effect.    “One of the surprising effects of the (Weight Watchers) program is the change in office behavior. In the past we frequently had fattening snacks people would bring to work. Fundraisers often featured fattening food. As people have focused on weight management, we now have items like fresh fruit, low fat items, and on the rare days a cake is brought in, the slices are much smaller. I think it has been a year since someone has brought in donuts, for example. The whole atmosphere of the office has changed.  Our group has lost over 1,000 pounds. Many more people are taking walks during breaks and lunch hour.”   While many have seen results through Weight Watchers, others would like to see the state cover other weight loss programs as well. Feedback from PEBB’s Spring Regional Meetings, revealed that some members believe PEBB should offer additional weight loss programs and that Weight Watchers isn’t necessarily the answer for everyone.    Regardless of how they are going about it, state employees and public education employees are getting healthier and slimmer.   PEBB Oregon overall OEBB Oregon overall   2007 2012 2012 2009 2011 2011 Eat more than 5+ fruits and vegetables per day 24.9 30.8 23.5 26.3 29.9 23.5   Overweight (BMI>=25 and < 30) 34.7 33.2 39.7 33.7 33.9 39.7 Obese (BMI >=30) 30.3 23.9 24.2 28.2 22.3 24.2   The 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey of State Employees (BSSE) showed that the percentage of PEBB members who eat five or more fruits and vegetables per day increased from 24.9 percent in 2007 to 30.8 percent in 2012. The percentage of those who were obese dropped from 30.3 percent to 23.9 percent over that same period.  The BRFSS of public education employees conducted in 2011 also showed positive results.  According to both surveys, state employees and public education employees are faring better than Oregonians overall when it comes to improved diet and weight management.   Both the PEBB and OEBB benefits allow covered spouses and domestic partners to participate in the Weight Watchers series, and in 2013 covered dependents age 10 and older were also eligible to take advantage of the benefit.  PEBB also now offers an Exercise Rewards program that includes a $45 gym membership subsidy each quarter.    FOR MORE INFORMATION    Joanne can be reached at [email protected].