Obesity is a problem, not just for individuals but for employers and health insurance companies. It can be a precursor to serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to a report from the Harvard School of Public Health, obese-related healthcare expenses totaled $190 billion in the U.S. in 2005. This does not take into account the indirect costs, such as loss of productivity, long-term disability, and increased absence. There are strong financial incentives to address the problem of overweight workers.

Rally Health is a part of UnitedHealth Group and it is a digital health company that works with health plans, health care providers, and employers to improve the lives of consumers. More than 55 million consumers have access to the Rally platform through more than 200,000 employers and healthcare plans. The company’s “Real Appeal” program has helped more than 700,000 people collectively lose more than 2.5 million pounds. One study of more than 52,000 participants showed that 80% of the participants lost some weight, and 42% lost at least 5% of their body weight.

A 5% weight loss is surprisingly significant. It reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 50% and can cut the chances of developing osteoarthritis by up to 50%. This weight loss is also enough to significantly reduce inflammation and improve the body’s immune functions.

The company has also created a version of the program: Real Appeal Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). This program recently received recognition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for meeting the standards for delivering an effective lifestyle change program. According to the company, 90% of Type 2 diabetes cases are preventable through lifestyle changes.

The evidence is strong that we can combat obesity and the disease that often follows it through programs that do not require medication. As employers and healthcare services recognize the significant return on investment delivered by such programs, we can hope to see more programs like Real Appeal being offered at no cost to more employees.