NIOSHThe Total Worker Health™  (TWH) strategy developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a concept being embraced in many countries, as NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard found at a recent conference.

TWH integrates occupational safety and health protection with health promotion in order to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being.

Howard chaired a session titled “Why Countries Need Total Worker Health” 10th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health in Los Angeles, California recently, whose theme was: Work Stress and Health 2013: Protecting and Promoting Total Worker Health.

Howard was joined on the panel by representatives from industry, academia, government, and labor who discussed the benefits and barriers of comprehensive workplace safety and health programs that integrate health promotion and health protection activities.

A large and inquisitive audience

“During this session nearly 500 audience members engaged in the discussion with thought-provoking questions, such as ‘How do you influence business leaders to invest in Total Worker Health?’ and ‘How can Total Worker Health be thought of as integral to national well-being?’,” wrote Howard in a follow-up report.

“This year’s conference elevated the significance that work and health cannot be separated. Workplace health promotion efforts traditionally have not been well integrated with occupational health and safety programs—that’s finally changing. Today’s best companies are taking a comprehensive approach; they work to make work practices and physical spaces as safe as possible for workers, but they also can provide organizational and environmental supports to employees for making healthier choices when they’re on and off the clock. Expanding health protections and healthier living opportunities every day in multiple ways can lead to true total worker health.”

Of the hundreds of papers and posters presented at the conference, many explored issues relating to Total Worker Health:

  • The effects of integrated health protection and health promotion interventions, including both health/safety and organizational (e.g., economic, productivity) outcomes.
  • The joint contribution of occupational and nonoccupational factors to health and safety problems facing workers today.
  • Strategies and best practices for implementing and evaluating integrated prevention programs.
  • Research and training needs in Total Worker Health.

"We were inspired"

“Of special interest, we learned that we were not alone in our commitment to integrate health protection with health promotion. We were inspired by the numerous papers from Scandinavia, Europe, and other places around the world that presented on the benefits and design of integrated prevention practices that promote overall worker well-being," said Howard.

“We are proud to share this commitment at a critical point in a new area of research and practice in workplace safety and health. As the concept of Total Worker Health continues to get wider attention, we look forward to future collaborations with our colleagues from around the globe.”

The conference was hosted by NIOSH, the American Psychological Association and the Society of Occupational Health Psychology. Nearly 800 professionals from 39 countries participated in it.