Could health-related interventions reduce overweight, obesity and increase employment?

Being obese or overweight and unemployed can lead to a vicious cycle in which individuals are unable to find and / or keep a job and / or are unable to afford healthy and nutritious food. The combination of obesity and unemployment is associated with an increased risk of serious illness, premature death, low self-confidence, poor well-being and lower quality of life.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation and highlighted the risks of overweight or obesity and unemployment. Obese people are at increased risk of hospitalization and mortality and more people have become food insecurity due to the loss of their job. Therefore, the significant social, health and economic impact of these two conditions highlights the need for public health interventions and strategies to jointly fight against obesity and unemployment.

Physical inactivity and unhealthy diets are the main contributors to obesity among the unemployed. Unemployment has an immediate effect on food expenditure as people try to prioritize their basic needs when they have less money to spend. Fresh, local and healthy foods are often expensive and require more skills for preparation and cooking and specific resources for storage.

Female runner running in the park

Female runner running in the park

© Cultura / Arno Images / mauritius images

People living in low income, poverty or unemployment are also more likely to live in areas with limited safe spaces for physical activity and a higher density of food outlets selling high-energy foods. (high in fat and sugar) but poor in nutrition.

Obese / overweight and unemployed people can be blamed for their condition due to the perception that the situation is controllable. A person struggling with their weight or well-being may have difficulty finding work due to a lack of self-confidence and feeling the pressures stigma. A person who is sedentary and without regular work can also find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

Although obesity and unemployment are clearly linked, existing interventions and policies do not simultaneously address obesity and employment using holistic approaches. More interventions and policies that help obese people find and keep work are needed. This will allow these people to afford healthier food options.

In addition, interventions aimed at improving the long-term standard of living of low-income people must be implemented with the additional effect of reducing health inequalities linked to diet.

What is the ASPIRE model and why is it unique?

Adding to social capital and individual potential in disadvantaged regions (ASPIRE) is an innovative project that will co-create a holistic model to simultaneously reduce unemployment and obesity.

The model will be created and tested by a collaboration of 15 partner organizations in France and England with expertise in health, welfare and employment services. The project will target adults who are unemployed or suffering from obesity / overweight and will be implemented in seven sites in France and England.

The overall goal of the ASPIRE project is to give participants the support, skills and confidence to make healthier lifestyle choices for themselves and their families. The project will help participants grow fresh produce, learn new skills, improve their self-confidence, diet and well-being. By practicing a healthy lifestyle and learning new skills, people will be able to improve their self-confidence, well-being and:

  • Reduce their weight
  • Increase activity levels
  • Get a job, volunteer or take training
Fruits and vegetables arranged in a heart shape

Fruits and vegetables arranged in a heart shape

© lassedesignen / stock.adobe.com

How will we measure the impact and effectiveness of the ASPIRE project?

In order to determine the effectiveness of the ASPIRE model, researchers from the University of Bournemouth will carry out a Evaluation using an approach known as “realistic valuation” methods. The evaluation will examine which aspects of the ASPIRE model work, for which participants or subgroups and under what circumstances. This will help identify which model activities are effective, test approaches for scaling up, sustainability and how to adapt the model to different contexts.

It is very important to understand how and why the ASPIRE model has worked in different contexts. Indeed, it will help stakeholders including local and national authorities, employment services and health service providers to make better decisions about which ASPIRE activities are useful in supporting people who are unemployed or suffering from disability. obesity.

What will the results of ASPIRE mean for individuals, communities and society at large?

The ASPIRE project will help tackle the social and economic stressors that underlie unemployment, overweight and obesity. The project will also support individuals, improve access to healthy food choices, promote regular exercise, and build social interaction and confidence. It will also create a network of food centers to tackle unemployment and obesity.

In addition, by involving community members, any community wishing to make changes to their healthy lifestyle will be able to adapt the ASPIRE model to help their community. Finally, the results of ASPIRE could help improve current health and employment services and inform local and national policies to reduce obesity and health inequalities.

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