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Conduct a Needs Assessment

To better understand your organization's work environment, conducting needs assessments can help you design a program that responds to employee concerns and aligns with the organization's mission, goals, and objectives. Conducting any one of the assessments below will provide important information; however conducting all three assessments will assist you in developing a comprehensive plan addressing specific employee needs and concerns.

Health Risk Appraisal

As you begin planning your obesity prevention and control program, an important first step in determining your employees' risk is to conduct a Health Risk Appraisal (HRA) with employees.

Conducting HRAs to collect employee information on risk factors helps target your worksite obesity program toward employee needs. HRAs are used to obtain information on demographic characteristics (e.g., sex, age), lifestyle (e.g., diet and physical activity habits), personal medical history, and family medical history. In addition, physiological data (e.g., height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels) can be collected and used as baseline measures for planning and evaluation purpose.24

HRAs can be conducted through–

  • Personal interviews.
  • Telephone interviews.
  • Paper-and-pencil tools.
  • Online surveys.
  • Referring employees to a physician to conduct an HRA as part of an annual physical exam.
  • Hiring an organization to do appraisals on-site.25

Data security, confidentiality, and proper employee communications are all important aspects of an effective HRA.24 Make sure to keep personal information private by not sharing HRA results with others unless expressly permitted by the individual participant.

For more, see Health Risk Appraisals.

Health Culture and Environmental Audit

This audit assesses the physical work environment and identifies how employees can be more physically active and make more healthy eating choices during the workday. It is also important to assess the health culture of your organization, looking at unwritten rules and assumptions about health policies within the organization.26 Specific features that can be assessed are–

  • Availability of healthy, nutritious foods in vending machines and cafeterias.
  • Availability of facilities for employees to store and prepare healthy food brought from home.
  • "Walkability" of the work place, such as sidewalks between buildings and stairs within buildings.
  • Availability of facilities such as fitness centers, bicycle racks, showers, and walking paths.

Organizations with employees that work remotely or multiple worksites should make sure to assess all sites and consider different options for the various work environments depending on each individual HRA conducted per site.

Health culture and environmental audits are usually conducted with questionnaires and surveys. To ensure that the results of the audit are meaningful, keep several things in mind. Make sure to collect only data that are useful in planning your program.

Use the Health Culture and Environmental Audit (PDF-75k) as a template for developing your organization's audit.

For more, see Environmental Audits.

Assessment of Health Risks with Feedback Plus Health Education With or Without Other Interventions29

woman giving a man a blood pressure testThe Task Force on Community Preventive Services* (Task Force) recommends the use of assessments of health risks with feedback when combined with health education programs, with or without additional interventions, on the basis of strong evidence of effectiveness in improving one or more health behaviors or conditions in populations of workers. Additionally, the Task Force recommends the use of assessments of health risks with feedback when combined with health education programs to improve the following outcomes among participants:

  • Tobacco use (strong evidence of effectiveness)
  • Excessive alcohol use (sufficient evidence of effectiveness)
  • Seat belt use (sufficient evidence of effectiveness)
  • Dietary fat intake (strong evidence of effectiveness)
  • Blood pressure (strong evidence of effectiveness)
  • Cholesterol (strong evidence of effectiveness)
  • Number of days lost from work due to illness or disability (strong evidence of effectiveness)
  • Healthcare services use
  • Summary health risk estimates (sufficient evidence of effectiveness)

The Task Force found insufficient evidence for

  • Body composition
  • Consumption of fruit and vegetables
  • Fitness

For more, see The Community Guide.*

Employee Interest Survey

These surveys are designed to provide insight into the types of health topics that concern employees and allow you to gain feedback on existing worksite health programs. Avoid asking "leading" questions that might create unrealistic programmatic expectations. And, make sure that your questions are specific to your organization, avoiding questions whose answers can be found elsewhere, such as on HRAs or medical claims data.27

Before beginning, obtain guidance from the appropriate agency experts to determine what approvals may be needed. Federal agencies are subject to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations and may require OMB approval.27

You can use the Employee Interest Survey* as an example for determining what your employees really want and need from the program.

For organizations with multiple worksites or remote workers, online surveys may be the best method because they are the simplest way to reach out to employees in different locations.28 Internet survey tools also make it easy to collect and analyze data.28

Larger organizations may want to survey employees in focus groups or informal interviews, making sure to incorporate diverse backgrounds, interests, and job functions.

For more, see Employee Surveys.

Additional Resources

Ethics Guidelines for Development and Use of Health Assessments
This CDC Web page provides a breakdown of seven general ethics guidelines to assist developers and administrators of a wide variety of health assessments (HAs) in making appropriate decisions in construction and use of HA instruments.

By the Numbers: Health Risk Appraisals* (PDF-664k)
This document discusses gathering information for a worksite wellness program through health risk appraisals (HRAs) and questionnaires that are used to gather important information about employee health behaviors and risk factors.  Focus on pages 2–5.

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* Links to non-Federal organizations found at this site are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the Federal Government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.

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