Workplace wellness program helps employees make healthy choices

man in a suit eats a salad at a deskObesity is an ongoing public health concern in the United States and although obesity has both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors, evidence shows that adopting a healthy lifestyle can play a significant role in its prevention or reduction.

In several studies, increased consumption of vegetables and fruits, as well as intake of whole grains, are positively associated with reducing obesity. But the US national median intake of vegetables and fruits in adults and adolescents is lower than the amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since employees spend most of their day at the workplace, the work environment is a suitable setting to promote healthy lifestyles. Dr. Ghada Soliman, Associate Professor of Nutrition at CUNY SPH and colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of a workplace wellness program on employees’ eating behaviors towards health-oriented dietary change, such as increasing intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy, as well as decreasing intakes of saturated fat and sugar-sweetened beverages. The findings were published in the Journal Public Health Nutrition.

The retrospective cohort study analyzed data from 12,636 adults who participated in a wellness program for three consecutive years during years 2004 to 2013 and who completed web-based health risk questionnaire. The wellness program included annual health screening, laboratory data, health risk questionnaires, as well as online and onsite personalized nutrition education and counseling. The research team found that the wellness program had a positive impact on increasing the number of participants who selected healthier food choices. The data also indicate that increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and the healthy eating pattern were correlated with improved health outcome indicators such as BMI and triglycerides in the third-year follow-up of the program.

“This study provides a model for a successful wellness program in the workplace that could be personalized to fit individual needs,” Soliman says. “It presents an evidence for the impact of wellness programs on the health and wellbeing of participants and as such may help inform and shape future wellness policies in the workplace.”

Soliman, GA., Kim, J., Lee, J., High, R., Hortman, S., Kim, Y., Wehbi, N., and Canedy, J. Wellness programme at the workplace promotes dietary change and improves health indicators in a longitudinal retrospective study. Public Health Nutrition, 2018: October 1: 1-9. doi: 10.1017/S1368980018002380.