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Small Changes. Big Results.

Americans spend a great deal of time at work. On average, Americans working full-time spend more than one-third of their day, five days per week at the worksite. With more than 139 million workers in the United States, the worksite is an important community that offers a number of ways to promote healthy living away from home. Employee wellness programs do just that.

Wellness Programs

Health programs or activities designed to support healthy behaviors while at work are the foundation for many worksite health promotion programs. Many employers offer weight management programs and on-site fitness programs to encourage and support employees with establishing and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Employers are seeing the value of such programs, including reduced health care costs, increased productivity, and healthier employees. Maintaining a healthier workforce can lower direct costs such as insurance premiums and worker’s compensation claims.1 It will also positively impact many indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity.2 In addition, offering employee wellness programs are a way to attract and retain employees.3 With those benefits in mind, it is clear an employers’ commitment to health benefits both the employer and employee.

A number of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiatives are helping communities prevent or reduce chronic diseases in America’s workforce by starting work-based programs. The efforts of worksite health promotion programs to increase physical activity and access to healthy food can have a positive impact on the more than one-third of Americans who are obese,4 and are supported by businesses across the country.

Employers Making Healthy Living Easier

Photo: Man wearing a suit and riding a bikeTo implement a successful worksite wellness program, employers should make healthy behaviors as convenient as possible for employees, and create a wellness culture that aligns with the specific worksite.

There are many ways to make the healthy choice the easy choice for employees. The key is for businesses to provide access and opportunities for their employees to engage in a variety of workplace health activities. Supporting lunchtime walking or running groups, encouraging taking the stairs, and offering discounts for physical fitness programs or on-site fitness facilities are all activities that an employer could include as part of a comprehensive worksite wellness program.

While there are a variety of options when implementing a worksite wellness program, employers may want to make small changes in the beginning. Awardees of the CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program initiating a wellness program are finding that small changes produce big results. Pima, Arizona, has seen the results. To ease its rising health care costs, one company in Pima offered healthy food in vending machines, created a walking path, and provided employees access to a worksite wellness coach. As a result of the company’s efforts under CPPW, health claims dropped by 70% and employees lost 440 pounds as a group.5

Worksite health promotion programs are appropriate for any work environment, but it is important to create a wellness culture that aligns with that specific work environment. When firefighters in Minnesota discovered that over 50% of firefighter deaths were cardiovascular-related causes, the fire department decided to implement healthy changes in the workplace.6 Under the CPPW program, the firefighters now manage a garden near the fire station and have access to fresh broccoli, squash, and tomatoes.

Communities across the United States are developing new and improved ways of making healthy living easier where people live, learn, work, and play. Worksites are showing their commitment to improving the health of their employees and ultimately the health of communities.

Support for Getting Started

Photo: Business woman and man walking outsideThe National Healthy Worksite Program is designed to assist employers in creating prevention and wellness strategies that will lead to specific, measurable health outcomes to reduce the burden of chronic diseases in the workplace. CDC has selected over 100 small and mid-sized employers across the country to participate in the program that aims to help reduce sick days, improve healthy lifestyles, and control health care costs. The National Healthy Worksite Program encourages physical activity, healthy eating, and tobacco free living through education and changes to the work environment. To learn more, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/nationalhealthyworksite/about/index.html.

The following Web sites offer resources on how to reduce or prevent chronic diseases and chronic conditions by increasing healthy eating and physical activity, and reducing exposure to tobacco:

The Community Transformation Grant (CTG) program is nationwide and dedicated to making healthy living easier where Americans live, learn, work, and play. To find out about a CTG community near you, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/communitytransformation/funds/index.htm.

The Communities Putting Prevention to Work program is a locally driven initiative supporting 50 communities to tackle obesity and tobacco use. To learn more please visit http://www.cdc.gov/communitiesputtingpreventiontowork/.

References:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/index.html
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/index.html
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/hwi/downloads/Steps2Wellness_BROCH14_508_Tag508.pdf#page=6 [PDF - 2.73MB]
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/communitytransformation/focus-strategies/index.htm
  5. http://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp?f=8628757
  6. http://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp?f=8628758

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