Excellence in administration

  • ISSA Guidelines:
  • Workplace Health Promotion

Excellence in administration

  • ISSA Guidelines:
  • Workplace Health Promotion

Workplace Health Promotion -
Definition of Workplace Health Promotion

The European Network for Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP) defines workplace health promotion (WHP) as “the combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and well-being of people at work”.

This definition is based on the Luxembourg Declaration (1997), developed by the members of ENWHP. It describes workplace health promotion as “a modern corporate strategy intended to prevent ill health at work (including work-related diseases, accidents, injuries, occupational diseases and stress) and enhance health-promoting potentials and well-being in the workforce”.

According to the Luxembourg Declaration, this can be achieved by:

  • Improving work organization and the working environment;
  • Promoting active participation;
  • Encouraging personal development.

The comprehensive nature of this widely accepted (European) definition of workplace health promotion is not unique. In 2004, the Health Communication Unit at the Centre for Health Promotion, University of Toronto, described workplace health as “an approach to protecting and enhancing the health of employees that relies and builds upon the efforts of employers to create a supportive management under and upon the efforts of employees to care for their own well-being”. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that workplace health programmes “refer to a coordinated and comprehensive set of strategies which include programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community designed to meet the health and safety needs of all employees”.

Examples of workplace health programme components and strategies include:

  • Health education classes;
  • Access to local fitness facilities;
  • Company policies that promote healthy behaviours, such as a tobacco-free campus policy;
  • Employee health insurance coverage for appropriate preventive screenings;
  • A healthy work environment created through actions such as making healthy foods available and accessible through vending machines or cafeterias;
  • A work environment free of recognized health and safety threats, with a means to identify and address new problems as they arise.

The need for such a comprehensive approach is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), which notes:

“The concept of the health promoting workplace (HPW) is becoming increasingly relevant as more private and public organizations recognize that future success in a globalizing marketplace can only be achieved with a healthy, qualified and motivated workforce. A HPW can ensure a flexible and dynamic balance between customer expectations and organizational targets on the one hand and employees’ skills and health needs on the other, which can assist companies and work organizations to compete in the marketplace. For nations, the development of HPW will be a prerequisite for sustainable social and economic development”.

One of the most positive features of workplace health promotion is the fact that so many groups can contribute to it and that it does not – indeed, should not – lie in the domain of one group alone.

This was identified by Wynne, in 1990, who adapted the five principles of general health promotion, based on the ecological model of health developed by WHO in 1984 for use in a workplace setting. Wynne states that workplace health promotion “is directed at the underlying causes of ill health; combines diverse methods of approach; aims at effective worker participation; and is not primarily a medical activity, but should be part of work organization and working conditions”.

Workplace health promotion is closely linked to and overlaps return-to-work (RTW) programmes based on the idea of proactive interventions and job retention. This holistic approach is highlighted in some of the following guidelines, based on the ISSA Guidelines on Return to Work and Reintegration. Around the world, social security institutions which combine the structures and mechanisms of workplace health promotion with the return to work provide good practice models, and their one-stop-shop service satisfies small and medium-sized enterprises in particular. The ISSA Guidelines on Prevention of Occupational Risks should also be part of this comprehensive service for enterprises and individuals.