Workplace Health Promotion
Preventable chronic conditions are a major contributor to the costs of health insurance premiums and employee medical claims. These costs are at an all-time high and continue to rise in the United States.
Four of the 10 most costly health conditions for US employers—angina pectoris (chest pain), high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack—are related to heart disease and stroke. In addition, work stress is the leading workplace health problem and a major occupational health risk, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity.
Chronic health conditions and unhealthy behaviors also reduce worker productivity. Five chronic diseases or risk factors—high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity—cost US employers $36.4 billion a year because of employees missing days of work.
On average, Americans who work full-time spend more than one-third of their day, 5 days a week, at their workplace. Workplace programs can promote and protect health, reduce safety risks, and help prevent disease. CDC has developed tools and training programs that employers can use to assess their worksites and plan and evaluate workplace health programs.
A healthier workforce can mean lower direct costs, such as insurance premiums and workers’ compensation claims, and lower indirect costs if workers miss less work because of illness.
In the United States:
4 IN 10 OF THE MOST COSTLY
health conditions are related to heart disease and stroke.
157 MILLION WORKERS
could be reached by workplace health promotion programs.
36% OF WORKSITES
have had their workplace health programs for more than 5 years.
72% OF WORKSITES
with a workplace health program have a coordinator responsible for managing the program.
Working With Employers to Set Up Effective Programs
CDC’s Workplace Health Promotion Program is at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to help employers build effective, science-based workplace health programs. CDC encourages employers to use its Workplace Health Model, which is a comprehensive approach that addresses many risk factors and health conditions at the same time. This approach is designed to provide access to affordable programs and improve quality of life.
Workplace health programs include policies, benefits, and environmental supports to keep all employees healthy and safe. Some examples are health education classes, access to local fitness facilities, policies that promote healthy foods or tobacco-free workplaces, and insurance coverage for preventive screenings.
CDC focuses its efforts on small and midsize employers because 99% of US employers have fewer than 500 employees, and many lack the expertise or resources to develop effective programs. CDC supports employers by helping them assess their efforts, conducting research to identify best practices, and working with partners to train employers.
Helping Employers Assess Their Efforts
During 2016–2017, CDC conducted the Workplace Health in America survey to assess workplace health programs across the country. Results showed that 46% of US worksites have some kind of workplace health program. The most common focuses of these programs are physical activity, nutrition, and stress reduction. The data from this survey can be used to develop guidelines and solutions for US employers and to evaluate progress toward meeting national health priorities. CDC also developed the Worksite Health ScoreCard to help employers assess their workplace health programs and find more ways to improve their workers’ health.
Conducting Research to Identify Best Practices
CDC supports research to learn what strategies are most effective in helping employers improve the health and well-being of their workers. The CDC Workplace Health Resource Center provides more than 700 tools and resources in a searchable database to help employers tailor programs to their specific workplace needs. These resources include case studies, surveys, policy templates, toolkits, and webinars.
Working With Partners to Train Employers
Work@Health is an employer training program designed to promote workplace wellness through employer education, training, and technical assistance. The program partners with trade associations, business coalitions, and health departments that support employer workplace health efforts. More than 800 employers have participated through online, hands-on, or combined training. Over 175 additional participants, including health departments and other organizations that support workplace health efforts, have completed train-the-trainer sessions.
Promoting Healthy Options in the Workplace
CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity works with employers to help make it easier for workers to eat healthier and actively travel to and from work. For example, CDC supports programs and policies that increase healthy options in vending machines and worksite cafeterias and help employers bring farmers’ markets on-site.
CDC also partners with states and communities to increase the nation’s physical activity levels and address inequities in access to safe physical activity, especially in communities that have been overlooked in the past. Strategies include promoting better community design and more active work environments—for example, by connecting places where people live with routes where they can walk, bike, or take public transportation to worksites.