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Wellness at Work

Photo: 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 the healthy lifestyle puzzle.

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 days away from work. Many businesses have realized the benefits of health promotion, and to curb the costs of rising health care they have begun offering wellness programs to their employees. Ideally, the office should be a place that not only protects the safety and well-being of employees but also provides them opportunities for better long-term health.

In a study published January 2014 in CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease, researchers looked at data from 37,626 employees in Washington State and found that the overall incidence of obesity among workers was 24.6%. They also noted that percentages 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 acknowledged 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 wellness program aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy.

Photo: Four people walking on treadmillsWhat is a Workplace Wellness Program?

A workplace wellness program is a health promotion activity or organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behavior 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.

Wellness 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 Wellness 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.

Additional Resources

More Information

More Information

The medical care costs of people with chronic diseases accounted for more than 75% of the nation's $2.2 trillion medical care costs in 2009. A number of studies published last year in Preventing Chronic Disease discuss wellness at work and the importance of expanding health promotion into the workplace. Read these articles for more information:

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