Workplace health programs take many forms. From healthy eating initiatives to exercise programs and screenings, employers use a variety of measures to help improve worker health and well-being.
A NIOSH study, Availability of and Participation in Workplace Health Promotion Programs by Sociodemographic, Occupation and Work Organization Characteristics in U.S. Workers, examines the prevalence of workplace health promotion programs (WHPPs) and their effectiveness in terms of gaining worker participation.
The study found that although approximately 47 percent of workers have access to WHPPs, only 58 percent of those with access actually participate. Furthermore, workers age 30 to 64 were more likely than younger workers to participate in WHPPs. The study also reports that those with higher levels of education, greater personal earnings and family income were more likely to work for organizations that offer WHPPs.
Computer and mathematical occupations had the highest availability of WHPPs (76.1 percent), while the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media industries had the highest level of participation (68.4 percent). The farming, fishing and forestry industries reported both the lowest availability of WPPHs (3.1 percent), and the lowest participation rate (26 percent).
Workplaces with more employees had a higher probability of offering WHPPs, while contract workers, temporary workers, hourly workers and workers on rotating or evening shifts were less likely to have the option to participate in a WHPP.
Along with participation rates, the report identifies barriers that keep workers from participating in health programs. Among these were a lack of awareness, time constraints, low supervisory support and no perceived need.
The report encourages employers to gauge workers’ priorities before designing and implementing WHPPs in order to customize programs to their employees’ specific needs and boost involvement.
“Workers have different needs and circumstances, depending on factors such as occupation, working night shifts or being paid by the hour,” says Dr. Rebecca Tsai, epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “We recommend that employers tailor their workplace health promotion programs based on their specific work organization characteristics in order to maximize participation.”
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