The WorkLife Program of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is “evolving to address a wider range of factors that influence workers’ total health,” according to the institute.
NIOSH attributed the change to a recognition of the multitude of work and non-work related factors that influence employees’ safety, health, ability to work, and well-being and to growing employer concern about the effects of diminished employee health on productivity, absenteeism, and rising health care costs.
“Employers are increasingly receptive to a growing body of evidence which provides rationale for addressing health promotion in conjunction with organizational efforts to protect workers and create safe and healthful workplaces,” according to a NIOSH statement. The WorkLife Program is changing its name to Total Worker Health™ to reflect the more comprehensive approach to workplace prevention. As part of this evolution, NIOSH said it will build “an intramural program” focused on protecting and promoting Total Worker Health™ through research, interventions, partnerships, and capacity building to meet the needs of the 21st century workforce.”
Beginning with Steps to a Healthier US Workforce and continuing with the WorkLife Program, NIOSH has promoted the integration of programs designed to protect worker health and safety on the job with health promotion and wellness programs in order to more effectively protect, improve, and promote both organizational and individual health and well-being. The program has emphasized the interplay of workplace conditions (i.e., the organization of work, policies, and management strategies) in the safety, health, and engagement of workers and for the past five years, NIOSH has funded and partnered with three national WorkLife Centers of Excellence to further explore and research the benefits of integrated approaches to employee health. Preliminary results indicate the value of this approach and the need for additional comprehensive research.
As the Program takes a broader approach to prevention and the intramural Total Worker Health™ program evolves, NIOSH will continue to provide leadership and guidance in promoting scientific research, policy, and practices that: (a) recognize the full range of factors affecting employee health and (b) coordinate workplace prevention, health protection, health promotion and related programs to improve the safety, health, and well-being of workers and their families. The Program will continue its relationships with the WorkLife Centers and other partners in efforts that seek to create environments, practices, and policies that optimize Total Worker Health™.