May 14, 2012 •

Source: Benefitspro

The nation’s obesity epidemic is literally too big to ignore. And now the most respected names in medicine are hoping to galvanize citizens and employers to confront the problem.

Tonight, HBO will premiere “The Weight of the Nation,” a four-part documentary series that examines the risks and consequences of obesity—everything from childhood prevention to community involvement.

The impact is certainly not out of reach for employers and HR professionals. They know obesity impacts business. Companies lose $4.3 billion annually due to obesity-related absenteeism, according to the Institute of Medicine. And for firms with offices around the country, it’s obvious the costliest health plan claims are coming out of places in which obesity – and poverty – is rampant. [See 10 fattest states in America]

As a nation, we know it’s a problem. We’ve already been told we’re too fat. But why, after decades of increasing waistlines, would we expect a national campaign to suddenly change things?

It probably won’t. But, in speaking with a Kaiser Permanente spokesperson just today, it seems the medical organizations and experts behind the documentary understand that. “This is only the beginning,” she said. Campaign collaborators, including Kaiser, are hoping to start a movement, not just increase awareness.

With that said, as an employer or benefits manager, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out the free resources available through this campaign. After all, this isn’t just another wellness program promo. These are established research institutions that are serving up more innovative tools to get Americans to at least think about how to become healthier.

“We’re going to have to think our way out of this in creative ways,” Executive Producer John Hoffman told NPR on Friday. “We have got to really renovate tremendous aspects of our culture, and it’s going to take a tremendous amount of invention and tremendous amount of intervention to really re-engineer our lives.”

If you don’t have HBO, don’t worry. The movies aren’t restricted to the cable network. Filmmakers are allowing the series to be broadcast on the campaign’s website at