Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: A policy statement from the american heart association

Mercedes Carnethon, Laurie P. Whitsel, Barry A. Franklin, Penny Kris-Etherton, Richard Milani, Charlotte A. Pratt, Gregory R. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations

Abstract

Successful worksite wellness programs engage employees in activities that maximize their potential for health and well-being, grow rapidly in response to their perceived value, and prove sustainable as they establish the business case for their existence. As such, government agencies could have a substantial influence by supplementing private sector investment in large-scale, objective, longerterm studies on programming and outcomes research to better inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of worksite wellness programs.153 Government agencies should also model worksite wellness programs and serve as laboratories for testing research-based lifestyle interventions. The health outcomes for high-risk and health-disparities populations should be particularly scrutinized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently developed the Healthy Workforce Initiative, a World Wide Web site designed as a resource for worksite health promotion program planners in state and federal government that is also an excellent resource for planners in nongovernment workplaces.154 Federal and state governments should encourage employers to offer programming by providing tax incentives for employers who implement comprehensive worksite wellness programs. Even the most well-designed and well-intentioned worksite wellness programs are ineffective if employees do not participate. Employers should seek to reduce or eliminate barriers that discourage use of worksite wellness programs to increase participation and employee engagement. One of many obstacles for programs to overcome is the low participation rate among those most likely to have greater health risk. Offering health promotion services such as fitness centers, weight loss programs, and exercise classes on site and providing healthy vending and food choices throughout the workplace environment are small steps. More innovative and forward-thinking employers might consider providing a convenient time and location for exercise and wellness programs during the workday and offering employer-provided paid time off during the workday for exercise, health screenings, or prevention/wellness programs.155 Programs that combine individual and organizational changes boast the greatest success rates in part because combined approaches engender a reciprocal relationship in which employees have a perception that their needs are valued.156 An Institute of Medicine exploration of the design of worksite health programs has embraced this kind of comprehensive approach,157 and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommendations for effective worksite programs endorse comprehensive efforts that combine health protection and promotion.158 However, continued research is needed to determine the effectiveness of comprehensive programs compared with programs that provide only selective services. Additionally, more work is needed to assess the effectiveness of programs on hard outcomes such as ischemic heart disease and stroke. Visionary employers are looking beyond healthcare costs to consider the total value of health. They understand the importance of establishing work environments that engender fulfillment, improve quality of life, forge positive links with the community, and increase productivity. An effective worksite wellness program can attract exceptional employees, improve on-the-job decision-making and work efficiency, enhance employee morale and organizational commitment, decrease turnover, and reduce organizational conflict.108 Despite the numerous and varied documented benefits of incorporating programming to promote healthy lifestyles in the workplace, such programming has not achieved adequate penetration into the workplaces of America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1725-1741
Number of pages17
JournalCirculation
Volume120
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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