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For Immediate Release: September 30, 2011
Contact: CDC Online Newsroom
(404) 639-3286

Affordable Care Act helps improve the health of the American workforce, increase workplace health programs

Awards aim to improve nutrition and physical activity, cut tobacco use among workers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today announced awards of approximately $9 million for comprehensive workplace health programs across the nation. The initiative, funded by the Affordable Care Act, aims to help workplaces support healthy lifestyles and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases in order to improve the health of American workers and their families.

Evidence shows that workplace health programs can be highly effective in promoting healthy behaviors and ensuring employers offer Americans a healthy and safe environment to work. Comprehensive evidence–based worksite health programs can generate significant cost savings, yielding on average a $3 return on every $1 spent over a two– to five–year period. 

“Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other long–term health problems increase health care costs and decrease productivity, eroding the bottom line of American businesses,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “This new initiative will help companies of all sizes implement strategies to improve employee health, which will help contain health costs for employers and make for a healthier, more productive American workforce.”

Viridian Health Management, based in Phoenix, Arizona, was selected to work with 70 to 100 small, mid–size, and large employers in seven regions across the country to help them develop or expand their workplace health programs. Interested companies will apply and will be selected based on several factors, including having little or no prior workplace health experience as well as demonstrated leadership commitment to supporting a workplace health program and allowing employee participation. Companies that are chosen will educate employees about good health practices and establish work environments that promote physical activity, proper nutrition and tobacco cessation—the key lifestyle behaviors that reduce employees’ risk for chronic disease.

Over a two–year period, project funds will support evidence–based initiatives to build worksite capacity and improve workplace culture to support healthy behaviors. Examples of such strategies include establishing tobacco–free campus policies, promoting work schedules that allow employees to be more physically active, and offering more healthy food choices in worksite cafeterias and vending machines. A core principle of the initiative is to maximize employee engagement in designing and implementing the programs so they have the greatest chances of success.

Research Triangle Institute (RTI), based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, will coordinate and administer a national evaluation of the program, including changes in employee knowledge and behavior and changes in employee productivity through decreased absenteeism. 

At the end of this project in 2013, CDC will disseminate the findings and provide recommendations for how to successfully implement and expand successful workplace health programs throughout the United States.

This work will further amplify the efforts of Million Hearts, an initiative announced earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the next five years.

For more information about the new workplace health initiative, visit http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/nhwp/index.html.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

 
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