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Worksite Wellness Strategies

How do we make the healthy choice the easy choice where we work? Walking Meeting

Even medium and small-sized businesses can adopt low-cost or no-cost worksite wellness initiatives.

All over the state employers are adopting policies that encourage workers to adopt healthier practices. Employers can encourage physical activity by allowing workers to flex their schedules to lengthen their lunch break by adding time at the beginning or the end of the day. With an increased lunch break, workers can walk to nearby stores to run errands. Other ideas can include scheduling walking meetings for discussions among two to three people. Staff can be encouraged to use the stairs, leaving the elevators for customers.

A Clark County organization called Community Choices provided leadership for the development of the Fit Pick™ program. Fit Pick™ helps workers make vending machine choices that support a healthy lifestyle. It is a simple, ready-to-use system of vending machine stickers that identify vended products to ensure that some snacks meet the FIT PICK criteria of less than 35% fat, less than 10% saturated fat and less than 35% total weight from sugar.

Most people spend 30-50% of their waking hours at work and research shows that healthier workers are more productive and use fewer health care dollars.

The cost benefit of worksite wellness has been well documented over the past two decades.

  • According to the American Journal of Health Promotion in a review of 73 published studies of worksite health promotion programs, there was an average $3.50-to-$1 savings-to-cost ratio in reduced absenteeism and health care cost.
  • Larry Chapman, of Web MD published his analyses of 42 studies of worksite health promotion programs in The Art of Health Promotion in 2003 and 2005. Those studies showed a 28-percent reduction in sick leave, 26-percent reduction in health costs, and 30-percent reduction in worker compensation and disability claims.

Other employers, such as the Asotin County Health District, are passing policies to allow staff to use work computers to access health-related information. They are giving employees a half hour of their work day to increase physical activity by walking or going to the gym. And they are emphasizing that, as a condition of employment, staff may not use tobacco products.

At the Lower Columbia Community Action Program in Cowlitz County, both the Meals-on-Wheels recipients and the on-site staff are benefitting from healthier recipes adopted by the cooks. Workers have the option of purchasing lunch on Fridays when the kitchen is geared up for providing extra meals to seniors for the weekend.

The Healthy Communities initiative of the Washington State Department of Health seeks to prevent and control chronic diseases though choosing healthy foods, early disease detection, physical activity and providing smoke-free homes and public places. There are 17 Healthy Communities programs underway at present with seven more coming online in July. The goal is that by 2012 there will be a project in each county.

The Healthy Communities worksite checklist includes:

    • Limit access to unhealthy foods and drinks.
    • Promote physical activity at breaks for workers.
    • Provide access to healthy foods and drinks at meetings and in vending machines.
    • Provide places for working mothers to breastfeed or pump milk.
    • Promote health screening for cancer, diabetes and blood pressure.
    • Encourage workers to quit using tobacco products by contacting 1-800-QUIT-NOW and WA Tobacco Quitline Services.

Resources

The Centers for Disease Control's LEANWorks Program has a clear process and adaptable tools for any size worksite, including survey tools to kick off planning by getting the input of workers. The LEANWorks Program will help a worksite team justify the program – including tools to calculate the return on investment -- then plan, build, promote and assess the program.

Target Audience

Employers, human resource professionals, worksite wellness coordinators, and other people responsible for institutional food purchasing

Scope

Washington State