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An analysis of pros and cons of health education at the workplace

by Medindia Content Team on June 18, 2006 at 10:57 AM
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An analysis of pros and cons of health education at the workplace

With the ever increasing problems of health capturing people worldwide it is very important to educate people about health and disease. This gain more impetus of it is done at the workplace for people who work- almost all now!

Lot of programmes have been developed which educate the employees on how to attain a better health and remain free of disease as also modify their easting habits to stay fit and not turn obese. This also helps to cut down on costs borne by employers for disease treatments and health care costs.

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Still these health promotion/disease prevention (HP/DP) programs have a lot of problems to carter. These issues are dealt with in the June issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. This is published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

To be most effective, HP/DP programs should be integrated into the traditional health protection mission of occupational health and safety professionals, states Tamara M.K. Schult, M.P.H., of the University of Minnesota and coauthors.
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In 1999, some type of health promotion activity was reported by 95% of companies with more than 50 employees. Yet barriers to effective HP/DP programs remain. Participation rates are low, programs are not always targeted to the employees who need them most, and smaller companies are unable offer them due to limited purchasing power and resource restraints.

For employers, the need to control continually rising health costs is a powerful incentive to participate in HP/DP programs. In addition, many companies are shifting to a "human capital approach," recognizing that improvements in worker health may lead to gains in corporate performance.

Other barriers to investing in employee health include the fact that the benefits may be intangible or might not be realized for years. Federal insurance regulations can pose barriers as well—for example, employers are restricted from rewarding employees who make positive health changes. Partnering with health plans may avoid some of the confidentiality and other barriers to worksite HP/DP programs.

Ultimately, the success of health promotion programs depends on employee participation. It has been debated that shifting health costs from employers to employees will give workers incentives to decrease their costs, but this has yet to be proven. Despite the obvious benefits of improved health, many people do not want to change their behavior, even if they're aware of the health risks. Several studies have found that other incentives are needed to increase employee participation in HP/DP programs.

Historically, the federal government has provided only modest support for prevention, including HP/DP programs. Signs this may be changing include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's "Steps to a Healthier U.S. Workforce Initiative," designed to integrate healthy lifestyle promotion into workplace safety initiatives.

For professionals in the occupational health fields, HP/DP programs offer an opportunity to expand their role. By broadening their traditional emphasis on environmental health and safety, occupational health professionals can incorporate risk-reduction strategies into a spectrum of services supporting a healthy work environment and managing employee health. "The time is right for occupational and environmental physicians to vigorously collaborate with all the key stakeholders in HP/DP to create the integrated health protection and promotion programs of the 21st century," the authors conclude.

ACOEM, an international society of more than 5,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

Source: Newswise
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