Total Worker Health Conference Points to a Potential Burden of Workplace Wellness Programs and a Way to Avoid It

NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard led a Roundtable at the Work, Stress and Health 2013 Conference in LA focused on Total Worker Health (TWH) that discussed the issue that wellness programs can place a significant requirement on employees to achieve wellness goals.  Wellness programs need to be designed to support employee success and avoid using them to penalize employees who are in poor health or who have predispositions toward unhealthy lifestyles.  Two pictures from the Roundtable are shown below; members were from the VA, Disney, University of Georgia, a Workers’ Comp insurance company, and the Laborer’s fund of North America.

Later in the day a program that represented views from the Labor community returned to this issue of the potentially disproportionate burden of wellness programs on employees.  A Commentary by Dr. Schall of the University of California at Irvine proposed that companies need to include employees or their representatives as participants in the development of the wellness component of any TWH program, and to study such programs with community-based participatory research (CBPR), a category or research designed to include potential study participants in the planning of the research.  He concluded that incentives should only be used to stimulate participation in wellness programs, not to achieve change goals.

See yesterday’s post for more information on this conference.

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About the Author

W. Kent Anger, PhD, is a Senior Scientist and Associate Director for Applied Research at OHSU's Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology.

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