When introducing programmes to support employees changing to a more healthy lifestyle, how do you assess whether they are having an impact? The occupational health service of the Health Service Executive Dublin North East carried out a lifestyles screening pilot programme with its ambulance service and used data analysis tools to produce statistics showing how the intervention affected employees. This article explains the approach.
The World Health Organization describes health promotion as "the process of enabling people to increase control over, and improve their health"1. It advocates the workplace as an ideal setting for health promotion as it provides access to a defined population, where employees can gain support from their peers, and where established channels of communication already exist. The benefits of promoting workplace health are twofold: for the individual in terms of promoting and maintaining their physical and mental health and for the organisation in terms of productivity and morale.
Specialists in occupational health are acutely aware that many lifestyle factors can ultimately lead to ill health at work. Prolonged hours in a sedentary setting can result in a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders. A study in Finland reported the annual incidence of neck pain among display screen equipment users to be 34%2.
Research also suggested that an increased prevalence of upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms may be associated with increased computer mouse use3, 4, 5. Specific exercises can help to reduce the onset of repetitive strain injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome for employees who carry out continuous unvaried work.
Exercise helps prevent injuries by strengthening muscles and joints. It maintains flexibility, which aids posture and range of motion, and may help improve balance and co-ordination for the individual. One way to highlight risk factors is through an individual lifestyle screening programme in the workplace. Early education and intervention will, therefore, ultimately promote and maintain the highest degree of health at work and thus benefit the employee and the employer.
The OH service of the Health Service Executive Dublin North East chose its ambulance service because, at 130 employees, the size of the service reduced the risk of selection bias.
Baseline assessments of those wh