Obesity is a Business Issue

Michelle Vegliante, Jessie Azrilian on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

More than two-thirds of US adults are obese or overweight, with 14 states touting an obesity rate above 30 percent. Now, Consider how a population of unhealthy adults impacts businesses - increased health care premiums, decreased employee productivity, and increased absenteeism. If current trends continue, the obesity rate is predicted to rise above 50% in the next 15 years.  A majority overweight or obese future workforce is harmful to U.S. competitiveness and holds potentially debilitating long-term economic impacts.

Children often learn habits from their parents, and research indicates that unhealthy kids become unhealthy adults. Employer measures to promote a culture of health in the workplace and greater community through corporate wellness programs and childhood obesity prevention initiatives can help ensure both the current and future workforce is healthy and prepared to succeed in a competitive economy.

A new report by the American Heart Association indicates Americans overestimate their own health: while 74% of the 2,000 surveyed employees reported being in good or very good health, in reality 42% of these employees had been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure. While this is a troubling snapshot of employee health, the findings also reflect important opportunities for business leaders to improve health outcomes in the workplace. Notably, the study highlighted the influence senior leadership has in driving employees to engage in workplace health programs.

Workplace and Community Wellness:
A recent Quickpoll of ACCE’s membership asked chamber leadership to describe their community’s and member’s concern related to the impact of employee health and childhood obesity on both the current and future workforce. From the 90 chamber executives surveyed, 93% rated their members as being either very concerned or slightly concerned about the impact of employee health on their businesses and 85% of chambers said their communities are concerned about preventing childhood obesity.

The graph below reflects chamber members’ concern about employee/family wellness as it affects the current workforce:


Chambers of commerce support both workforce and community wellness in several capacities- from convening members and serving as a health and wellness resource for businesses- to scaling their impact through community-wide initiatives. The ACCE Quickpoll revealed that 65% of surveyed chambers promote corporate wellness programs now or plan to do so in the future. Examples of how chambers engage include: hosting events such as roundtables and conferences to promote corporate wellness plans to members; joining or forming community-wide partnerships to address wellness issues; leading regional initiatives through chamber wellness committees, councils or sub-committees; and including corporate wellness in chambers’ economic strategic plans.  Both the Meadowlands (NJ) and Charlotte (NC) Chambers are prime examples of how Chambers are promoting these initiatives:

  • The Meadowlands (NJ) Chamber of Commerce’s Health & Wellness Committee focuses on supports that directly impact their members, producing an Annual Health & Wellness Guide with vital information to help members navigate healthcare insurance, health programs, safety compliance and wellness.
  • The Charlotte (NC) Chamber of Commerce seeks to impact the broader community through their health initiatives. The Healthy Charlotte Council, which is comprised of the chamber’s members, has a goal to help Charlotte achieve a top 10 ranking in the American Fitness Index within the next five years. The Council has set very specific goals for Charlotte, including: identifying key indicators of the fitness index and tracking status, establishing connectivity with pertinent organizations to drive community collaboration, and increasing the national reputation of Charlotte as a healthcare hub.

Childhood Health and Obesity Prevention:
In addition to corporate wellness initiatives, 65% of surveyed chambers from the Quickpoll also currently promote childhood wellness programs or plan to do so in the future. Examples of specific activities chambers noted include: supporting childhood obesity prevention in a chamber’s legislative agenda; working with local governments to implement child care ordinances; and providing topical surveys, reports and communication briefs to members.

Chamber Involvement in Supporting Childhood Wellness:

One example of Chamber involvement in this arena is the The Traverse City (MI) Chamber of Commerce. The Traverse City Chamber  is leading the way in supporting childhood wellness and connecting economic success to early childhood health and education through the Traverse Bay Great Start Collaborative. Great Start is Michigan’s early childhood initiative and prioritizes “health” as one of its five main focus areas. Their farm to preschool initiative encourages early healthy eating habits by connecting local farms to home-based and center-based child care facilities to incorporate locally-grown fruits and vegetables into preschool meals and create age-and-culturally appropriate curriculum for students and parents to learn both deliver fruits and vegetables as well as teach children where their food comes from.


Interested in learning more? Visit the new “Workforce Wellness” webpage to learn how chambers are helping create healthier communities through initiatives to support childhood obesity prevention, corporate wellness, and access to healthcare.


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Forbes Etiquette Guide: How To Work A Room

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

As summer marches on, events requiring great networking skills seem to culminate. With chamber's summertime programs and events, as well as professional networking through events like ACCE's Annual Convention, not a day goes by without some kind of networking opportunity.

Even if you're a star networker, or perhaps want to learn to be a better one, we can all pick up some great yet simple tips from this fun, quirky, retro-style video with key points on how to effectively network. (If anything, the amusing graphics and music will make you smile and tap your foot, at least!) Watch the Forbes Etiquette Guide: How To Work A Room (2.23 min) and start applying these points to your own networking style. This was originally posted on ACCE's LinkedIn general discussion group in the thread on How to Work a Room- Get the Most out of Real-Life Networking.

More networking ideas are listed on ACCE's Chamberpedia pages for Networking Events and Networking Icebreakers, available in our Events and Programs main section.

Questions, thoughts, comments? We enjoy hearing from you! Email us at

Tags: Convention, events, icebreakers, Networking

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Results Available From New QuickPoll on Obesity Prevention/Corporate Wellness

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Monday, July 14, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

ACCE's Education Attainment Division and HERO have released the latest QuickPoll results on Obesity Prevention/Corporate Wellness. 90 participants answered more than 7 questions on how chambers are involved in health initiatives. Here is a brief recap of several of the questions and responses.

1. Does your chamber promote corporate wellness programs now or plan to promote it in the future? 65% said yes. See the results to find out how chambers are involved in these programs.


2. Does your chamber promote childhood wellness now or plan to promote it in the future? 65.5% said no. See the results to find out how chambers are involved in these wellness initiatives.


3. How would you rate your community's attitude towards preventing childhood obesity? 71.1% said "slightly concerned" and 14.4 percent said "very concerned". See the results to find out what chamber's members say about the potential impact of childhood obesity on the future workforce. 


To see all the results, view ACCE's QuickPoll page on Obesity Prevention/Corporate Wellness. Find out more about how chambers are getting involved in wellness initiatives and read feedback from chambers on ways they are working with both corporate and childhood wellness.

For questions or more information on this QuickPoll or on the Education Attainment Division, please contact Jessie Azrilian, Director of Education Partnerships.

For more on ACCE's Surveys and Data, including QuickPolls, view our Research Overview page.

Tags: Corporate Wellness, Obesity Prevention, QuickPoll

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Bicentennial Insanity

Mick Fleming on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 11:31:00 pm 

It was in the summer of 1976.  I was a young teacher in a prep school in New York and was four days into a 30-day school tour of the United States--14 high school kids in two Ford passenger vans. Another teacher and I had organized the 8,000-mile road trip as a Bicentennial experience for our relatively well to do students. One traveler’s father was a famous New York banker who arranged to get us onstage during the 4th of July show at the Grand Ole Opry. I didn’t like Merle Haggard or Minnie Pearl and most of the kids considered it cruel torture (“we could have been at Opryland!”), but none of us will ever forget that afternoon sitting in church pews in clear view of the huge audience, slightly behind the performers. Well, one kid may forget it because he fell asleep during an especially long Roy Clark ballad. I’m pretty sure it was about a horse and a woman, or maybe a pickup. A hundred other adventures ensued over the following weeks: rain the first 12 days in a row, red ant attack in Iran, Texas, sleeping on the red rock formations under the stars in Moab, sending the kids off to explore the French Quarter on their own, Hollywood, Sedona, 50 yard line in Nebraska stadium, White River Junction, an everything store that sold guns, baby furniture, alcohol, prescription drugs and authentic tacos in the attached café. A month and many adventures later, we got home safely from this crazy trip. As my fellow chaperone put it: “It was great! Nobody was hurt, sick or pregnant.” P.S. 5 years later, the banker mentioned above helped get me my first job in chamber work.

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ôLet the Pros Do It."

Mick Fleming on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 11:30:00 pm 

My best 4th of July holidays were as an adult, not as a kid. When our kids were young, my attorney brother bought a 20-acre gentleman's farm.  Driving 400 miles home for Independence Day included a mass sleepover for 20 or so folks in his great country house on Snake Run Road in East Otto, N.Y. (no kidding). Each year, after a day spent splashing in the muddy pond, and hiding in the corn field, a do-it-yourself fireworks show was the holiday climax, followed by a big campfire. It was right out of a Norman Rockwell painting . . . most of the time.

One year, the brother-in-law assigned to purchase contraband explosives (in New York state) was ripped off at the pop-up fireworks stand in Virginia. Those were some OLD roman candles! At least half were duds, which were disposed of in the boxes they had come in. Later in the evening, as the last song faded by the dying fire, my always-efficient sister cleaned up the yard, throwing papers and other trash into the barely glowing embers, which was the way we dealt with farm garbage in prehistoric times.

A few minutes later, our tranquil evening resembled a scene from Apocalypse Now. Violent explosions erupted in and above the fire, sending tracers and flames between the screaming, crawling family members. I spotted my two kids in perfect boot camp position on bellies and elbows. Nana had flung her walker and shuffled away from the duds coming to life with remarkable agility for 92. My eldest nephew shouted without a trace of irony: “Mom, I’ve been hit!”

Of course I can tell the story now with such relish because we all escaped without permanent scarring. Psychological damage to young’uns appears to have been temporary, though I still wonder about one niece. And the lesson (I always need a lesson) for chamber folks from this story from the Fleming family annals?  Let the pros do it.

The work you do requires skill and wisdom. You can’t trust just any volunteer to spend the money carefully, handle the project properly, put on a good show and wrap things up without a hitch. You’re the pro. At least supervise to avoid explosive situations for those around your campfire.

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