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Companies take expert help to keep employees fit

By Azera Parveen Rahman, Gurgaon/New Delhi, March 25 : From asking dieticians to draw up cafeteria menus to conducting counselling sessions to keep them fit, multinational companies and others are becoming mindful about their employees' health, given the steady rise in lifestyle diseases affecting their workforce.


"It's no longer just my prerogative to shed the tyre around my belly. My boss is bothered too," Atul Sharma, a 29-year-old employee in a call centre in Gurgaon said half-jokingly. It seems the mantra, 'Work should not suffer' still holds true, but with an addition, '...nor should the workforce'.

Dieticians say that given the rise in lifestyle diseases like diabetes, obesity, and even cardiovascular related ones, it's a healthy trend that more and more companies are lining up to invite them for health workshops and counselling sessions with their employees.

"In the last two years, there has been a 70 percent jump in the number of MNCs asking us to conduct health workshops and counselling sessions," Deepika Agarwal, a senior dietician at New Delhi's Apollo Hospital, told IANS.

The main reason for this is the realisation that an unhealthy workforce affects performance. So be it Fujifilm, Samsung, or the Park Hotels, everyone is lining up at the doctor's to ask them to advise their staff on healthy eating habits amid their hectic schedules.

"For instance, I conduct a two-hour session on how to place a food order in a restaurant without jeopardising your health. There is a concept of green, yellow and red zones - from the most healthy downwards. The aim is to keep off the red zone," Agarwal said.

Explaining this further, she said that asking for a chapatti would be in the green zone; adding butter to it, or going for a butter naan (bread) will bring it down to the yellow zone. Again, boiled rice will be in the green zone. Seasoning like mint chutney is green, but a cheese dip is not. Heavily fried, sweet food is in the red zone.

"I also advise professionals to carry crackers, nuts or fruits with them which they can snack on when they are hungry," she added.

Ritika Samaddar, head dietician at Max Hospital, went on to say that companies are also seeking help of experts in designing menus for their cafeterias.

"We have been asked to design menus in a number of office cafeterias. Given the 12-14 hour work schedules and the various health problems that pose a threat, thanks to a bad lifestyle, we keep in mind the food items are not to be too heavy," Samaddar told IANS.

"Care is taken to include seasonal vegetables, less oil and fruits in dessert," she added.

Experts also lauded the efforts of companies in spreading health awareness by observing Health Day, Nutrition Day and the likes to focus on the subject. Some companies also offer health packages to their employees for regular check-ups as an incentive.

"India has a very high incidence of diabetes and hypertension. Young professionals these days discover they have high cholesterol and are overweight. Clearly workplaces are suffering because their manpower is suffering," Samaddar told IANS.

Shruti Ghosh, who works in the marketing department of an MNC, for instance, said that skipping meals constantly led recently to a bad bout of acidity. "Our schedule is such that you can't help but miss your breakfast or lunch; and instead keep drinking tea or coffee," she said.

"Some of my colleagues carry medicines for acidity and headache with them always. Only when I went to the doctor recently with a particularly bad bout of acidity did I realise that I was bordering on developing ulcers. I have now reformed my habits," the 25-year-old said.

Samaddar said that there is definitely an increased level of awareness, seen by the increased attendance in her health workshops. "Also, the questions that they ask - like how can you exercise at work? - indicate that they are aware. In my clinic too I have seen a greater number of people who are there with the aim to practise caution, rather than come after they have been detected with some illness".

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.rahman@gmail.com)

--IANS (Posted on 25-03-2013)

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