'Moderate' Impact of Workplace Health Promotion Program

Long-term evaluation of a comprehensive workplace health promotion (WHP) program at a large Finnish company shows a "moderate" impact on worker health—even with relatively low annual participation rates, reports a study in the November Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Antti Hermanni Äikäs, MSc, of University of Jyväskylä and colleagues performed an eight-year evaluation of the WHP program, implemented at a Finnish wood supply company between 2010 and 2017. The comprehensive program offered health risk appraisal (HRAs) and screening, followed by targeted education and support services to improve employee health. Initial participation rates were high: 86 percent of employees participated in HRAs and 80 percent completed health screenings.

Annual participation rates, including annual WHP events and targeted services, were lower: average 24 percent. However, over eight years, the total "reach" of the program—the percentage of the total workforce participating at least once—reached 58 percent.

The WHP program was "successful," defined as making suggested lifestyle changes and improved results on screening, in about one-fifth of participants. Based on the recently introduced PIPE ("penetration, implementation, participation and effectiveness") Impact Metric, the program had a net health impact of 18 percent in 2010-13 and 14 percent in 2014-17. While those figures may sound low, the authors note that they reflect a "relatively strong" improvement—especially compared to expected declines in health without a WHP.
Previous research has suggested that comprehensive WHP programs can promote lifestyle changes and improve employee health. The new study is the first multiyear evaluation to include detailed information on long-term participation and effectiveness rates, and to use the PIPE Impact Metric.

The results show high participation in HRAs and health screening in a comprehensive WHP program. Although annual participation rates were "modest," the program reached more than half of employees through the first eight years.

With success rates around 20 percent, the program can be considered moderately effective. Mr. Äikäs and coauthors call for further studies to clarify the health risk changes achieved, as well as the financial impact of the improvements in employee health.
About the Author
Mr. Äikäs may be contacted for interviews at anaikas@hotmail.com.
ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Äikäs AH, Absetz P, Hirvensalo MH, Pronk NP. What can you achieve in 8 years? A case study on participation, effectiveness, and overall impact of a comprehensive workplace health promotion program. J Occup Environ Med. 2019;61(12):964-77. This article is Open Access.