Making Workplaces Healthier Is Goal of New Accreditation Program

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AS NEWS outlets issue their yearly "best companies to work for" rankings, some public health advocates are hoping health will figure prominently in the equation in coming years.

A new accreditation program is being tested that will help employers assess health management and well-being initiatives against established standards and best practices.

The idea behind HealthLead is to offer support not only for wellness initiatives such as weight loss and smoking cessation at the workplace, but also to measure employers on opportunities for physical activity, stress reduction and a wealth of health indicators that can translate into more productive workers.

"What we're trying to do is take this to the next iteration going beyond wellness," said APHA member J. Nick Baird, MD, CEO of the Alliance to Make U.S. Healthiest, which developed the program. "If we include not only physical well-being but emotional, physical, environmental--it is so clear at least to those of us working on this that it provides significant increases in productivity, and productivity relates pretty darn closely to shareholder value. It just makes sense."

Among the four companies that have gone through early testing of the program, the 70-employee Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in Arlington, Va., represents a small employer as well as the health sector.

"We are very health-oriented, and then the opportunity to get involved in this arose," said APHA member Paul Jarris, MD, MBA, executive director of ASTHO and also a board member of the Alliance to Make U.S. Healthiest. "And so I looked at it to say, 'hey we are health-oriented, isn't this cool? These experts actually put standards together.'"

Jarris' organization, for example, has a healthy foods policy that aims to ensure food choices such as whole grains, low-fat dairy products and fresh fruit are available at meetings. …