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How can you lower the risk of employees being diagnosed with cancer?

In a digital savvy world which is being driven by sharing and trending, everyone possesses the power to take on the creative role for a few minutes of fame with a meme. The health and wellbeing community have been quick to jump on the band wagon with a rise of health memes and messages prevalent on social media.  This one in particular, caught our eye:
The message of the meme is simple and to the point – cancer is linked to nutrition but, does the science back this up?  And if it does, how can you help your organisation and colleagues to stem the tide of cancer diagnoses?
The European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cancer is the most important cause of death after diseases of the circulatory system. It accounts for 20% of all deaths in Europe, with 2.5 million new cases diagnosed each year.
A large body of evidence from the WHO suggests that nearly 30% of all cancer cases is linked to a poor diet.  This translates that 30% of cancer cases are preventable. The proportion reaches 70% for cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life may be one of the most important ways to protect against cancer. The only other most important factor would be avoiding tobacco use.
Further research has shown that 20% of people who have the lowest fruit intake have a 20% higher risk of lung cancer. Also, evidence indicates that reducing salt and salt-preserved foods may reduce the incidence of stomach cancer.
The evidence above is just the tip of the iceberg – the evidence is stacked up that poor nutritional habits do increase your risk of being diagnosed with cancer.  That aside also, what employees eat makes a massive difference to their energy levels, their mood and their self esteem. When your employees choose foods rich in protective factors such as fruits and vegetables we are also doing something positive for our health and wellbeing.
The challenge for HR Departments is how easy is it to implement strategies that can make your workplace more nutritionally-savvy?  As obesity and cancer care costs continue to rise for the NHS and sickness absence impact employers, a good starting point would be to offer healthy food alternatives and involve employees to start making healthy changes.
One way to address this challenge is to encourage and help employees get well and stay well – healthy eating is a cornerstone of this goal.  Here are some Healthy Performance tips that you can implement across your business:
Change the culture of company meetings and celebrations so they are healthy events:
When an employee has a birthday, it is typical across the UK “to get the cakes in.” Meeting buffets often exclude healthy options in favour of sugary snacks.  Whenever food is brought in for an event, include a healthy option such as a fruit or vegetable tray. Give your employees the opportunity to make healthy choices. If you are using an external catering company for an event then request healthy, lower calorie selections from the menu.  Offer a variety of drink besides sugary drinks – water or fruit teas are always a good substitution.
Control employee portion sizes:
When it comes to waist size, bigger is definitely not always better. Did you know that the size of a breakfast muffin has more than doubled since the 1950s?  Before serving breakfast pastries cut them in half, or even quarters. This will leave more room for fruit on the plate. Talking of plates, supply your staff with smaller plates – this will also help reduce waste and cost.
Offer nutrition education and counselling:
Employee programmes such as onsite workshops, seminars and 121 consultations are becoming more frequent and popular within the workplace.  They can help employees acquire the skills, motivation and support they need to alter their eating and food preparation habits.  Nutrition advice can include self-monitoring with food diaries, overcoming barriers to selecting healthy foods, goal-setting, shopping and food preparation and social support
In conclusion, be creative to find additional ways to make healthy food choices an easy option at your workplace. Make sure that management lead by example and include all staff, from the top down, to take part in any implemented changes. And crucially, educate employees on how to make healthy nutrition choices. Over time, whilst we might not get back to the level of cancer diagnoses in the early 1900’s, these low-cost strategies may save your company time and money and improve overall employee wellness!
Healthy Performance provides a range of nutrition workshops including energy levels, food labelling, weight management, eat to perform and many more.  Throughout the sessions we use interactive methods to engage staff and take the approach of ‘balance’ and eating in moderation. Our 121 consultations allow employees to speak confidentially and put their own strategy in place to a healthier and more productive way of life.  Call one of the team today to discuss any aspect in more detail on 01295 230120.

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