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Policy 101

"Organizations are important components of social and physical environments, and they exert considerable influence over the choices people make, the resources they have to aid them in those choices, and the factors in the workplace that could influence healthy lifestyles status."1 Formal policies are one aspect of influence. A workplace that supports health is likely to have policies that enable healthy behavior choices of employees by promoting employee health behavior, offering behavioral incentives to employees, and increasing employees' access to health resources.2

For the purposes of this Web site, policies shall be interpreted in a broad manner, and shall include laws, regulations, and rules, both formal and informal, that are adopted on a collective basis to guide individual and collective behavior.

  • Policies can be voluntary or legally binding. These can include, but are not limited to
    • Formal, written laws and policies, such as federal authorizing and appropriations law or a specific smoking ban
    • Informal, such as "casual Fridays," where such a rule doesn't exist formally, but is collectively assumed that employees may wear jeans to work
  • Policies can have substantial impact on workforce health promotion (WHP) because they set boundaries around which wellness practices can be implemented.

Healthier Worksite Initiative (HWI) strives to make CDC a place where "healthy choices are easy choices," including developing workplace policies that are consistent with wellness goals. Employer policies are important to the planning and implementation of WHP programs for two basic reasons: 1.) WHP programs need to comply with them, and 2.) WHP programs can advocate for modification of existing policies, or enactment of new policies, that strengthen and support employee health promotion goals.

This information is being shared because it may be useful to those planning WHP programs in federal or other settings in the following ways:

  • WHP program planners should be aware of the policies and regulations that they must operate under. If some policies present barriers to workplace health promotion goals, program planners should consider advocating for policy revisions.
  • Federal workplaces – Those planning WHP programs at other federal workplaces can reference appropriate policies to guide and support development of a new employee health promotion program or strengthen an existing program.
  • Other workplaces – Those planning WHP programs at non-federal governmental agencies or private companies might use the list as a guide to research their employers policies that impact program wellness development.


1Institute of Medicine (US). Health and Behavior: The Interplay of Biological, Behavioral, and Societal Influences. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.

2McLeroy, KR, Bibeau, D, Steckler, A, Glanz, K. An Ecological Perspective on Health Promotion Programs. Health Education Quarterly 1988;15(4):351–377.

3Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2003 average hours worked per day by employed persons at workplace or home by selected characteristics. United States Department of Labor. Available from URL:

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