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Obesity As a Disease

The National Institutes of Health define morbid obesity in three ways: Being 100 pounds or more beyond your ideal body weight; having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater; or having another serious medical condition related to obesity such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, with an accompanying BMI of 35 or more.

The disease of morbid obesity is a disease of interference. It interferes with your life, both today and tomorrow.

Today, it interferes with basic functions such as breathing or walking – and it can cause a lower quality of life with fewer economic and social opportunities.

Tomorrow, it can cause serious, long-term health problems. In addition to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, it’s seen as a contributing factor to stroke, kidney failure, cancer, depression, osteoarthritis, stress urinary incontinence, infertility and sexual dysfunction.

Causes of obesity

In its simplest terms, obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories than he or she burns, but genetic, environmental and other factors may all play a part, according to the National Institutes of Health.

From a genetic standpoint, obesity tends to run in families, which does suggest a genetic cause. Families also share diet and lifestyle habits, which also contribute to obesity.

Environment also strongly influences obesity. Most people alive today were also alive in 1980, when obesity rates were lower. Our genetic makeup hasn’t changed since then, but our environment has.

Americans too often eat out or grab something out of a vending machine; we consume large meals and high-fat foods and we put taste and convenience ahead of nutrition. At the same time, we don’t get enough physical activity. We drive longer distances to work instead of walking, we live in residential neighborhoods without sidewalks, we go online or turn on a television and sit motionless instead of taking a walk.

An individual’s cultural background may also play a role in his or her weight. Foods specific to certain cultures that are prepared with a lot of fat or salt may cause weight gain. Similarly, family gatherings offering large amounts of food may make it difficult to pay attention to serving sizes.

Other factors can cause obesity.  They include hypothyroidism, which results in a lowered metabolic rate and loss of vigor; Cushing’s Syndrome, a hormonal disorder; and polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in females characterized by high levels of androgens. In addition, certain drugs such as steroids, some antidepressants and some medications for psychiatric conditions and seizure disorders may cause weight gain. These drugs may slow the rate at which the body burns calories, stimulate the appetite or cause the body to hold onto extra water.

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