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Wellness at Work

Woman at computer eating fruit saladYour health is important wherever you go. And now that many people are spending most of their day sitting at a desk or inside an office, implementing health programs inside the workplace has become a vital piece of a healthy lifestyle. 

Chronic Disease at Work

Chronic diseases such as depression and hypertension can lead to a decline in the overall health of employees in a workplace, contribute to an increase in health-related expenses for employers and employees, and lead to lower productivity and/or days of work missed. Many businesses have realized the benefits of health promotion, and to curb the costs of rising health care offer workplace health programs to their employees. Ideally, the office should be a place protecting the safety and well-being of employees while providing them with opportunities for better long-term health.

In a study published January 2014 in CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease, Bonauto and colleagues looked at data from 37,626 employees in Washington State and found that the overall incidence of obesity among workers was 24.6%.1 The authors also note that obesity rates varied by job type. For instance, only 11.6% of those in health-diagnosing occupations, for example doctors, dentists, and veterinarians, were obese. On the other hand, 38.6% of truck drivers, who spend most of their days sitting, were obese. The authors of this study acknowledge the importance of physical activities and their availability at the workplace in preventing obesity.

Although chronic diseases like obesity are among the most common and costly of all health problems, adopting healthy lifestyles can help prevent them. A workplace health program aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy.

Four people walking on treadmills

Workplace health programs include policies intended to facilitate employee health, including allowing time for exercise, providing on-site kitchens and eating areas, offering healthful food options in vending machines, holding "walk and talk" meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation.

What is a Workplace Health Program?

A workplace health program is a health promotion activity or organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behaviors and improve health outcomes while at work. These programs consist of activities such as health education and coaching, weight management programs, medical screenings, on-site fitness programs, and more.

Workplace health programs also include policies intended to facilitate employee health, including allowing time for exercise, providing on-site kitchens and eating areas, offering healthful food options in vending machines, holding "walk and talk" meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation. Effective workplace programs, policies, and environments that are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to significantly benefit employers, employees, their families, and communities.

Need a Workplace Health Program at Your Office?

Ask your employer if they offer a wellness or health promotion program. If not, suggest implementing one at your office. If you are an employer looking to start a program of your own, read the CDC's Worksite Health ScoreCard and other materials for recommendations on implementing a health promotion program at your workplace.

References

  1. Bonauto DK, Lu D, Fan ZJ. Obesity Prevalence by Occupation in Washington State, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130219. DOI..
  2. Gerteis J, Izrael D, Deitz D, LeRoy L, Ricciardi R, Miller T, Basu J. Multiple Chronic Conditions Chartbook. [PDF - 10.62 MB] AHRQ Publications No, Q14-0038. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2014. Accessed November 18, 2014.

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