The Evolution of Worksite Health Promotion

IAWHP_logo_version_2Worksite health promotion has come a long way in the more than three decades that I have personally observed its growth. Back in the 1970’s a sampling of large corporations had introduced the concept of “corporate fitness” into the U.S. market but those innovators were few and far between. Corporate fitness represented a movement toward worksite health promotion, but those first efforts essentially meant a company had installed a small gym on-site and were trying to offer healthy exercise options for their employees. Fortunately for the International Association for Worksite Health Promotion, our membership of health professionals include many that have lived and worked in this field since that initial spark of corporate fitness so long ago!

PIECES sealIn 2003 I worked with Dr. Robert Karch to develop a simpler model of global health promotion that was built upon the work he had established over the previous two plus decades. Although it was more than twenty years into this discipline’s progress, an extensive literature review I conducted at that time revealed that not only was there very little international agreement about health promotion as a defined and distinct field of study, the U.S. was far behind many other nations in the actual implementation of WHP initiatives! The PIECES® model that emerged from my research, while innovative and simple, was still ahead of the curve and a challenge to institute into practices beyond academia.

Fast forward to 2014 and worksite health promotion is not only a widely recognizable concept, it has become a necessity for many companies across the U.S. as they struggle to control healthcare costs. Although the terminology has moved from “worksite health promotion” to “worksite wellness”, the general idea behind the efforts are much the same. Today health scientists are actively building a series of best practices from research conducted on WHP initiatives that have been in place for a few years. However, there is more work yet to be done before we can apply the knowledge attained from the past into a more coherent, international, comprehensive approach to WHP going forward.

As hundreds of new companies and individuals join the WHP movement, many are learning how to actively collect data and measure outcomes from their WHP initiatives. We are looking forward to hearing from these new WHP adopters and sharing their experiences with our IAWHP membership. It is my job as the Senior Editor for this newsletter to seek out and publish the best of the best that is out there in global WHP and record it within these pages. My hope is that rather than waiting for me to find you, those of you reading this newsletter will take a moment to reach out to me and share your experiences, case studies, perspectives and research! The more we know as an organization, the better we can lead others as we move boldly into the future!

Mary Ellen Rose, PhD is the Chief Science Officer for the Institute for Healthy Destination Accreditation and owner of PIECES for Life, a WHP consulting firm. She has also served as an IAWHP Board Member and active volunteer with the organization for three years.

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Posted in Physical.