HealthLinks, a wellness program developed by the University of Washington Prevention Research Center (PRC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS), is helping worksites get healthy.
HealthLinks is designed to reduce physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and tobacco use among workers in small worksites (i.e., less than 250 workers) in low-wage industries such as accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, and retail trade. Low-income workers tend to work in smaller workplaces and report more chronic diseases than other workers. To address this concern, the Washington PRC together with ACS developed this program to help small businesses start effective health programs in their workplaces.
HealthLinks in Worksites
Washington PRC researchers piloted HealthLinks in 23 small worksites (about 966 employees) in Mason County, Washington, a rural low-income community with high rates of obesity and smoking. Each worksite received tailored recommendations to adopt best practices to improve physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and tobacco use. After 6 months, researchers found significant increases in the worksites’ adoption of
- physical activity programs (from 29% worksite use to 51% worksite use),
- health behavior policies (from 40% worksite use to 46% worksite use) such as workplace strategies to discourage tobacco use, and
- health communications (from 40% worksite use to 81% worksite use) to improve employee’s health awareness.
This successful outcome led to a bigger pilot study among 47 small worksites in low-wage industries (approximately 5,000 employees) in King County, Washington. The King County pilot helped employers promote cancer screening; offer healthier foods; and gain opportunities to be physically active, strengthen tobacco policies, and promote cessation resources. Participating businesses more than doubled—from 21% to 44%—in the overall adoption of best practices for their worksites, which included physical activity programs, health behavior policies, and health information communications.
HealthLinks has been shown to improve small and low-wage worksites’ use of workplace health promotion best practices. This program is recognized as an effective public health program by the Community Preventive Services’ The Community Guide. Currently, the Washington PRC, ACS, and the Preventive Health Partnership are disseminating HealthLinks to other counties in Washington state. The Washington PRC and ACS are also testing HealthLinks with funds provided by the National Cancer Institute.
Are you interested in learning more about workplace health? See the following resources, including more on HealthLinks.
Prevention Research Centers Program
Read about the research behind this program.