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International and National Perspectives on Workplace Health

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I Introduction

Though active in workplace health promotion, Canada can learn much from European success stories that demonstrate a more structural and legislative approach. In contrast, Canadian efforts often deal with workplace health from an organizational or individual perspective. Strategies here are usually initiated by senior management, workplace health committees or public health units, rather than higher levels of government.

Europe has a strong workplace health strategy, uniting 28 countries with consistent messaging and a common pool of resources and initiatives. Some of this European work is profiled below, followed by information about some recent strides in Nova Scotia.
 
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II The European Network of Workplace Health Promotion

The European Network of Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP) was formally established in 1996 to help member countries share knowledge of workplace health promotion. A leader in the development of workplace health in Europe, ENWHP carries out joint initiatives and national forums. Notable achievements include:

  • Role as a common platform for all stakeholders interested in the improvement of workplace health.
  • Development of an infrastructure that all Network members jointly support and follow.
  • Creation of seven European joint initiatives.
  • Current participation by 28 countries.

Initiatives/Strategies:

The ENWHP works on the following key function areas:

  • Managing knowledge about health at work by collecting, analyzing and disseminating research and information.
  • Promoting innovation in working environments and cultures by adopting new practices, products and services.
  • Developing a robust business case by collecting information on the outcomes of workplace health promotion.
  • Creating tools for analysis, intervention, marketing, advocacy and policy development to engage more organizations and stakeholders in the process of workplace health promotion.

Seven ENWHP initiatives address these functions.

1st Initiative: Quality Criteria and Success Factors of Workplace Health Promotion

The aim:

  • To identify companies in the participating countries which clearly demonstrate good practice in workplace health promotion.

Key output:

  • The most important output has been the publication of the "Models of Good Practice". This document details the processes followed by each of the member organizations as they developed their workplace health promotion programs. Initiatives can be searched by country or by organization type. (http://www.enwhp.org/fileadmin/downloads/models.pdf)

2nd Initiative:  Workplace Health Promotion in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises   

The aim:

  • To identify good practices for unique small and medium-sized organizations.

Key outputs:

 
3rd Initiative: Workplace Health Promotion in the Public Administration Sector

The aim:

  • To describe and analyze public administration in Europe with a view to supporting workplace health promotion.

Key output:

  • "A Report on the Current Status of Workplace Health Promotion in the Public Administration Sector" outlines concerns about reducing the bureaucracy and lack of touch with the public and identifies options for reform based on research.  (http://www.enwhp.org/fileadmin/downloads/Report%202002.pdf)

4th Initiative: Implementation of Infrastructures for Promoting Workplace Health

The aim:

  • To develop a supportive infrastructure and improve the methodological knowledge base for workplace health promotion by developing a European Workplace Health Promotion Toolbox.

Key output:

5th Initiative: Healthy Work in an Ageing Europe  

The aim:

  • To identify, analyze, document and disseminate models of good practice for workplace health promotion in the context of an ageing workforce.

Key output:

6th Initiative: Dissemination of Good Workplace Health in Eastern European Countries   
The aim:

  • To develop a framework for cooperation between relevant stakeholders of the applicant countries and current member states.

Key output:

  • The project "Dragon Fly" develops structures such as monthly roundtable meetings and workplace health promotion seminars to facilitate dissemination of good practice in the field of workplace health promotion among all participating countries and states. (http://www.enwhp.org/index.php?id=226)     

7th Initiative: Move Europe - A Campaign for the Improvement of Lifestyle-Related Workplace Health Promotion in Europe

The aim:

  • To develop a campaign to promote healthy lifestyles.

Key output:

  • The "Move Europe" campaign focuses on lifestyle-related workplace health promotion in the following four fields: physical activity, healthy diet, mental health and smoking prevention. This comprehensive campaign consists of various approaches, including an on-line situational assessment called "Company Health Check", an advocacy and alliance-building strategy as well as a public relation component. (http://www.enwhp.org/index.php?id=83)

Success Stories:

Norway: Statoil - Takes a holistic attitude to work-life balance by recognizing workers as individuals with families and private lives. In recognition of this, the company offers flexible working schedules.

Netherlands: Uniqema - Management completes reporting on the company's health promotion measures as part of their duties. A flex-retirement program is available, where two people can share the same job until they retire at age 62.

Italy: Angelantoni Industrie Spa - Offers an employee engagement program where staff are surveyed every six months on job requirements and needs. Management has an implementation strategy for suggestions and employees sit on various steering committees throughout the organization. A staff development initiative ensures high participation in training opportunities.

Ireland: Aer Rianta - Involves both management and employees in feedback sessions; a panel with representatives from all levels of the organization reviews the feedback and implements solutions with a workplace health promotion perspective. Flexible work hours, job sharing, "teleworking", and an on-site nursery for child care are also offered.

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III Nova Scotia's Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion, A Provincial Strategy

The Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection was involved in an innovative pilot project entitled HealthWorks, which ended in March 2005. Project outcomes included:

  • A strong belief that a provincial strategy that addresses comprehensive workplace health can improve employee health to a greater degree than a non-provincial strategy.
  • The development of a model supporting the dissemination and sustainability of comprehensive workplace health across Nova Scotia.
  • The Building Capacity for Comprehensive Workplace Health Stakeholder Forum, a conference that dealt with potential challenges, supports and opportunities for successful implementation of a provincial workplace health strategy.
  • Progress toward a provincial strategy (European style!).

Initiatives/Strategies:

A number of the HealthWorks initiatives parallel the European work described above, including:

  • Small Business:  A focus on small businesses by responding to their unique needs.
  • Work Environment: Improvement of work conditions and organizational culture by addressing employee health, unemployment, social diversity and supporting people during ill health.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: Improvement of the internal and external environment by having corporate policies reflect the environment and vice versa.
  • Performance Indicators and Targets: Establishment of targets for the strategy and its delivery, ensuing accountability and identifying milestones for evaluation.

Success Story:
Trampoline, Halifax Branding Advertising and Design Company is Atlantic Canada's first strategic creative boutique specializing in branding, advertising and a "design to build" approach. Trampoline offers:

  • Employer matching of RSP contributions,
  • Flexible work schedules,
  • A healthy kitchen,
  • An open, creative work environment,
  • Encouragement and support of physical activity, and
  • Support and encouragement of volunteerism.

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IV Conclusion

Although still quite young, Nova Scotia's provincial strategy has dug some firm stakes into the ground. This is a crucial time for Nova Scotia as the province will need to sustain the vision within the larger structural or political realm. Experience gathered in Europe has shown how workplace health promotion from a structual and legislative persepective can be an effective means for change. Being aware of what other jurisdictions are doing in the international sphere and on home ground can increase the capacity for collaboration and identification of gaps. It will be an exciting day when Canada unites all provinces under one workplace health strategy with a strong, supportive infrastructure.

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V References

Cordia Chu, Gregor Breucker, Neil Harris, Andrea Stitzel, Xingfa Gan, Xueqi Gu and Sophie Dwyer (2000). Health-promoting workplaces - international settings development. Health Promotion International, Vol. 15, No. 2, 155-167.

Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion Strategy: The Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection. http://www.thrivingworkplaces.ns.ca/

European Network on Workplace Health Promotion: European Union. http://www.enwhp.org

Weinstein, Malcolm (1986). Lifestyle, Stress and Work: Strategies for Health Promotion
Health Promotion, Vol. 1, p.363-371.

Ziglio, E., S. Hagard and J. Griffiths (2000). Health promotion development in Europe: achievements and challenges.  Health Promotion International, Vol. 15, No. 2, 143-154.

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VI Upcoming Events

2008 Top Employer Summit
Toronto, Ontario
June 9-10, 2008
http://www.employersummit.ca

The Conference Board of Canada
Western Workplace Health 2008: Mental Health, Productivity and Performance
June 11-12, 2008
The Coast Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, Calgary
http://secure.conferenceboard.ca/conf/regforms/jun08/health.asp

Centre for Health Promotion
15th Annual Ontario Health Promotion Summer School
Health Promotion Under Pressure: Strengthening Community Action
June 23-25, 2008
The Westin Prince, Toronto
http://www.utoronto.ca/chp/hpss/generalinfo.html
 
Healthy Workplace Week
Canada's Healthy Workplace Month: September 29 to October 26, 2008
http://www.healthyworkplaceweek.ca

Health Work & Wellness Conference 2008
Moving Forward... Giving Back
October 15-18, 2008
TELUS Convention Centre, Calgary
http://conferences.healthworkandwellness.com