For any health promotion programme to have an impact it must be creative and innovative or it will simply be ignored. A good knowledge of your workforce will help a tailor-made approach to reach the target and bring real results. By Liz Hall
Running an effective health promotion is about much more than pinning up the odd smoking cessation poster in the hope that staff might notice it on their way to the canteen.
For a health promotion programme to have an impact, it should be underpinned by needs assessment, clear goal setting, cost-benefit analysis and outcome measurement.
But it should also be creative and innovative to capture and keep capturing the interest of complacent or reluctant employees.
"The most important thing is to stimulate debate, to be light-hearted and informal to get people interested," says occupational health nurse John Walker, who was involved in running a successful scheme at Motorola's factory near Glasgow before it closed.
Staff need to be motivated
Staff reluctance was certainly something that faced BAE Systems Marine's occupational health manager Karen Bryce.
The shipbuilding firm's workforce - some 4,500 staff in Glasgow and 5,000 in Barrow - is about 90 per cent male.
"The male staff here are very resistant to change and reluctant to look after their health," says Bryce.
Before embarking on health promotion interventions, it is important to draw up a profile of the workforce, assessing specific needs. Apart from areas common to all workforces such as heart disease, each industry will have different needs, with slips, trips and falls common in construction, and musculoskeletal disorders typically common in the high- tech sector, for example.
In BAE Systems Marine's case, around 42 per cent of its male employees were in the high-risk group for cardiovascular disease. Musculoskeletal problems and manual handling injuries were common because of staff working with heavy machinery in tightly confined spaces. Eye injuries were also rife, with many men refusing to wear protective eyewear. A year ago, it was not unusual for 10 staff in one day to be rushed off to the local eye infirmary, some of them with horrific injuries.
Despite employee reticence, Bryce set up health promotion strategies to tackle some of these problems. She carried out a cost-benefit