Workplace Wellness

by Liggy Webb

Health promotion programmes

Health promotion has been defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘the process of enabling people to increase control over their health and its determinants, and thereby improve their health’. The best known definition of health promotion, promulgated by the American Journal of Health Promotion since at the 1980s, is ‘the science and art of helping people change their lifestyle to move toward a state of optimal health’.

These definitions encompass what the aims of a programme should be, on both the individual and corporate levels.

What should the programme focus on?

The focus should be on developing overall wellbeing for an individual and an organisation. Health promotion at work is about the combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and wellbeing of people. WHO states that the workplace ‘has been established as one of the priority settings for health promotion into the 21st century’ because it influences ‘physical, mental, economic and social wellbeing’ and ‘offers an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health of a large audience’.

There are countless ways to do this and the wellness market is booming as people have started to realise the important role health promotion and prevention measures can play in improving employee health and reducing long-term costs. Options that may form part of a health promotion programme include smoking cessation measures, weight loss programmes, implementing healthy diet plans and healthy canteen options, subsidised exercise programmes and stress management techniques. Some programmes may even include stress-reducing massages, safe driving classes and ergonomics training to keep people from injuring themselves due to a poor workplace setup.


Many organisations and insurance companies have reward incentives for people who use health programmes successfully. Participants can get rewards for attending educational health programmes or reaching health goals, such as lowering blood pressure. Rewards can include cash, items such as mp3 players or exercise equipment or even extra holiday days. Often, rewards will focus on health-care needs, such as a deduction in insurance premiums.

What makes a programme successful?

The ideal to aim for is a coherent, ongoing programme that is multi-focus and comprehensive, such as an integrated health promotion and disease prevention programme that knits together all the particular components (smoking cessation, stress management, coronary risk reduction and so on). The programme should be consistent with corporate objectives and should include evaluation. Such programmes have been found scientifically to be the most effective in reducing healthcare costs and premiums, improving health practices, reducing absenteeism and disability and increasing productivity.

Factors common to successful programmes include having

  • Specific, measurable programme goals and objectives
  • Easy access to the programme and facilities
  • Incentives for participation
  • Respect for confidentiality
  • Support of top management
  • A corporate culture that encourages health promotion efforts.

Core elements of a programme

It is important to have a defined structure to the programme, made up of a number of integrated key elements:

  • Programme Director
  • Stated goals/objectives that have been approved by management and are acceptable to employees
  • Endorsement by the management at all levels
  • Policy available to all staff
  • Participation should be voluntary
  • Continuing allocation of resources
  • Effective coordination with other health-related activities
  • Communication of programme details/goals/objectives throughout the organisation
  • Motivated and engaged employees who want to participate
  • A mechanism for feedback from participants in order to confirm the validity of the programme design and to test both the popularity and utility of particular programme activities
  • Procedures for maintaining the confidentiality of personal information
  • Updated records to keep track of activities, participation and outcomes, as a basis for monitoring and evaluation of the programme
  • The analysis of relevant data to evaluate the programme.

The list below comprises useful contents for a proactive Workplace Wellness programme, aimed at health promotion and prevention, which will prove useful in most organisations: