Health promotion in Correctional Officers Share This OHSU Content

DOC HEALTHHealth Promotion in Correctional Officers

Kerry Kuehl, MD, DrPH (PI)

Prison work is regarded as one of the most difficult occupations with correctional officers (COs) having one of the highest nonfatal injury rates of all U.S. occupations. Despite their well documented high health risks including high rates of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal injury, stress and mental health disorders, correctional officers (COs) and prison workers have received only limited study, and no evidence-based occupational safety and health programs are available.

The Division of Health Promotion & Sports Medicine investigators have studied and developed a science-based, team-centered, scripted peer-taught program for public safety workers including firefighters and police officers proven to reduce injuries and illness while at the same time being cost-effective.

This project will prospectively assess an intervention consisting of a team-based, peer-led health promotion intervention (TEAM) plus a one-on-one health coaching intervention based on motivational interviewing (MI) for higher risk intervention participants, among COs working at the Oregon State Department of Corrections. Half of the participating COs will be randomized to the TEAM program (consists of 12 weekly, 45-minute peer-led sessions with a scripted health curriculum covering health topics of healthy eating, exercise, fitness, body weight, stress reduction, fatigue management, musculoskeletal health and injury reduction, substance abuse reduction).

For intervention COs with highest health risk based on having a 10-year CVD Framingham Heart Study Risk Score greater than 20%, an additional one-on-one health coaching MI booster will be added to the TEAM intervention. All control and intervention participants will receive the same assessment battery and results. Measures include physical activity and dietary assessment, anthropometrics, blood lipids, stress and sleep survey, and theoretical constructs, mediating variables and outcomes. Repeat testing will occur at 6, 12 and 18 months.

The hypothesis to be tested: CO's fitness, stress, injuries, rates of absenteeism and healthcare costs will be improved using an innovative, costeffective, team-based worksite health promotion strategy.



  • The program proposed would be the first occupational intervention to improve the safety, and emotional and physical health of those who are charged with the complex task of prison work protecting our communities.
  • Findings will provide insight to the use of teams as a vehicle for health promotion, the efficacy of motivational interviewing and the relationship between the health of correctional officers and the impact of this wellness program on quality of life, injury rated, healthcare costs, sick days, absenteeism, and the overall economic impact of this program.
  • If successful, this proposal would result in an exportable, practical occupational safety and health program applicable for use by local, state, and federal correctional facilities.