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You probably know, more than anybody else in the workplace, which workers have the greatest potential for positive health changes, says Dawn Stone, RN, a nurse practitioner and former occupational health nurse at Miller's Brewing Company, University of California Los Angeles' Occupational Health Facility and Northrop.
As an occupational health professional, says Stone, "you are aware of workers with interest in improving their health situations."
Giving information directly to these at-risk individuals "can be very powerful," says Stone. "Cost savings occur when a disease is prevented, and time off work for illness is not needed. Also, health insurance premiums are kept low." She recommends these approaches:
Hold wellness program at work, and offer the program at different times and days of the week.
"This provides convenience and flexibility for workers with demanding schedules," says Stone.
Use technology to stream wellness presentations or interactive online programs.
"This can reach audiences that work offsite, travel often or those who simply cannot get away from their work stations," says Stone.
Offer monetary incentives.
Gift cards are an additional incentive to boost participation, she says.
Follow up with the committed worker.
Once an employee has made a commitment to participate in a health behavior change, what next? "Individual attention from face-to-face meetings or regular online communication becomes especially valuable," says Stone. "This provides guidance and promotes motivation."
Difficult to measure
Stone says to survey workers to assess their needs, the type of programs they are interested in, and the best days and times to offer programs. Then, use multiple methods to advertise programs, she recommends, including e-mail, printed flyers, postcards, and posters displayed in areas that are well-traveled by employees.
"Quite often, attendance can be low simply because employees are unaware of what is available," she says.
Stone recommends featuring stories about employees who have been successful in meeting health goals. "Reading about people you know provides tremendous authenticity. That is very motivating," she says. "Disseminating success stories may also invite the development of spontaneous support systems within the workplace."
The cost savings of prevention are always difficult to measure, since the development of disease is not typically a certainty despite poor health behaviors, she notes.
"However, promoting a healthy workforce is the best way to keep people on the job, prevent injury, and enhance endurance and work performance," she says.
For more information on reaching high-risk employees, contact:
Dawn Stone, RN, Fullerton, CA. Phone: (714) 516-2695. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.