This systematic review summarizes the current evidence on the financial return of worksite health promotion programmes aimed at improving nutrition and/or increasing physical activity. Data on study characteristics and results were extracted from 18 studies published up to 14 January 2011. Two reviewers independently assessed the risk of bias of included studies. Three metrics were (re-)calculated per study: the net benefits, benefit cost ratio (BCR) and return on investment (ROI). Metrics were averaged, and a post hoc subgroup analysis was performed to compare financial return estimates between study designs. Four randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 13 non-randomized studies (NRSs) and one modelling study were included. Average financial return estimates in terms of absenteeism benefits (NRS: ROI 325%, BCR 4.25; RCT: ROI -49%, BCR 0.51), medical benefits (NRS: ROI 95%, BCR 1.95; RCT: ROI -112%, BCR -0.12) or both (NRS: ROI 387%, BCR 4.87; RCT: ROI -92%, BCR 0.08) were positive in NRSs, but negative in RCTs. Worksite health promotion programmes aimed at improving nutrition and/or increasing physical activity generate financial savings in terms of reduced absenteeism costs, medical costs or both according to NRSs, whereas they do not according to RCTs. Since these programmes are associated with additional types of benefits, conclusions about their overall profitability cannot be made.
© 2011 The Authors. obesity reviews © 2011 International Association for the Study of Obesity.