Weight management programs are good for the waistline and the bottom line.

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There’s been a fair amount of research in recent years that has shown that workplace weight management programs have a number of health benefits. U.S. companies have known this for years. Japanese firms used to be known for them, regardless of how accurate those perceptions actually were.

As the idea has taken root in the United States, in a culture increasingly concerned with the health problems white-collar jobs can cause, studies have shown that it helps.

Now, a study shows that weight management programs also help the bottom line, which might provoke companies that otherwise we’re considering such programs to reconsider.

According to Tzeyu L. Michaud, Ph.D., who works at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, the weight management program used at the University of Minnesota resulted in reduced health care expenditures for participants.

While it hasn’t had any real impact on absenteeism, it has resulted in a savings of $838 per participant when you factor in their families, or $876 when factoring in the employees themselves. In total, that comes to savings of $3.7 million over three years. Perhaps even as much as $4.65 million thanks to the “added value” of “quality-adjusted life-years.”

“Benefits of a workplace weight management program may go beyond monetary values, as evidenced by an improvement of employees’ health-related quality of life,” writes Dr. Michaud.

These figures are from a three-year study period and are from experience with the huge staff at the University of Minnesota. In smaller companies, the impact may not be as drastic. But that’s still a pretty significant savings, especially because the University of Minnesota’s weight management program only costs about $164,000 per year, which is probably a small bump in the university’s total operating budget.

Obviously, introducing such a program requires some serious thought and help from trained medical professionals, so you may not see the savings immediately. However, it’s worth thinking about as a way of cutting costs without taking other benefits away from employees.