One of the main thrusts of Dame Carol Black's review of the health of Britain's working-age population, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, is that employers should use the workplace to promote healthier lifestyles.
Occupational health nurses and doctors will play a part in this, although there are concerns that health promotion is not necessarily the best use of their skills - and their numbers are also limited. While the Black Report is calling for more collaboration between OH and other health promoters, it is not yet clear who these other health promoters will be, or how such collaborations will work.
A major challenge will be training other practitioners in health promotion, and ensuring they are qualified to deliver standards of the right quality.
As part of the Working for a Healthier Tomorrow review, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was commissioned to consider both the wider business case and the economic case for employers investing in wellness programmes. The PwC report Building the Case for Wellness looks at what makes a wellness programme work, the need to meet specific employee needs, and how to set up a framework that offers a practical approach to implementation.
PwC defines promoting wellness as a combination of health and safety (abiding by statutory regulations and government requirements) managing ill health (through best practice use of occupational health, absence management and disability management), and prevention and promotion (health promotion, work-life balance and stress management, career and social development and primary care). When all these components are in place, the goal of workplace wellness can be achieved.
Clarity on wellness
The report found that many employers lack a clear definition of workplace wellness, have a poor understanding of how to incentivise employee involvement in such programmes, and have no clear business case for promoting wellness to staff. Factors relevant to the business case include changing demographics and expectations, the rising costs of chronic disease and