Obesity rate continues to climb [INFOGRAPHIC]

In 2013, the adult obesity rate was 27.1%, up from 5.5% 2008

While the U.S. smoking rate has dipped to 18% after years of stagnation, the nation’s obesity rate is continuing to climb.

Midway through 2013, the adult obesity rate was 27.1%, up from 5.5% in 2008, according to data collected from 83,000 Americans in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Today, only 35.4% of the nation's adults fall in the normal weight category.

An overweight workforce is an unhealthy one, as the American Medical Association made clear in its recent decision to recognize obesity as a disease.  

And an unhealthy workforce is an expensive one. The more excess weight employees and members carry, the more these folks cost employers and health plans. Obese adults also spend two to four times more per year on prescription drugs than do adults of healthy weight.

Additionally, obesity is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes, which currently affects one in 10 U.S. adults. By 2050, the disease could afflict one in three. Among people with diagnosed diabetes, medical costs are more than twice as high as those of people without diabetes.

When the AMA declared obesity a disease, the association stated that the condition requires interventions for prevention and treatment. Traditional wellness programs are not enough to address the complexities of obesity, which requires evidence-based intensive support by specialized clinicians and personal health coaches.

Most of these programs are one-dimensional, supplying information only about how to lose weight and what kind of diet to follow. Disciplined members and employees may lose weight, but they typically gain it back because they haven’t been taught important behavioral strategies that help them identify and defeat thought patterns that would otherwise threaten to sabotage long-term changes in lifestyle and behavior.

For more information about how tradidional wellness programs fall short and how to address the problem, see this white paper on the economic impacts of obesity.

Amy McAllister is the director of clinical development and support at Alere Wellbeing.