Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Faculty and Staff Health Promotion: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Faculty and Staff Health Promotion: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006

Article excerpt

Approximately two thirds of deaths among adults aged 25 years and older in the United States can be attributed to preventable risk factors, including tobacco use, poor eating habits, inadequate physical activity, and alcohol and other drug use. (1) US schools employ an estimated 6.7 million workers, or nearly 4.5% of the nation's workforce, and are ideal settings for promoting adult health through employee wellness programs. (2) Moreover, many schools already have key facilities (eg, gymnasiums, swimming pools, fitness centers, and athletic fields) and staff (eg, health and mental health professionals, health and physical education teachers, classroom teachers, and nutrition services staff) to support employee wellness programs. (3)

School employees are susceptible to the same health risks and concerns that affect students, and many of these health risks are the same as those experienced by adults in other worksites. For example, many school employees lack adequate physical activity and proper nutrition; are asthmatic, diabetic, or obese; distracted by family or financial problems; and experience high levels of stress. (4) Teachers, in particular, identify stress as a primary concern. (5) Maintenance workers, bus drivers, and clerical staff may have ergonomic injuries from repetitive activities and lifting, and teachers and other staff may have chronic respiratory infections and voice disorders because of poor indoor air quality. (5)

Studies of employee wellness programs in private business and industry have shown positive outcomes on employee health and well-being, (6,7) and it is likely that the findings from these studies are generalizable to schools. (4,8) School employee wellness programs have been associated with reduced employee absenteeism, (9) improved teacher morale, (10) increased physical activity, weight loss, lowered blood pressure, and higher levels of general well being. (11) A well-developed school employee wellness program provides staff members with an integrated approach to improving their health, creates an environment that reduces exposure to threats to their health, and incorporates health promotion into the culture of the worksite.

School employee wellness programs also have been shown to be cost effective. After implementing a program, school districts have experienced considerable cost savings due to the need for fewer substitutes for absent teachers (12) and fewer health insurance claims. (13) A study (9) conducted in the Washoe County School District in Nevada found a cost savings of $15.60 for every dollar spent on a school employee wellness program as a result of reduced staff absenteeism.

The launching of the Seaside Health Education Conference (later called the Seaside Health Promotion Conference) in i977 was a turning point in the recognition of the important role that schools can play in promoting faculty and staff health. The Oregon Department of Education brought together teams of school administrators, counselors, health and physical education teachers, school nurses, and school board members from throughout the state to build awareness of the importance of school health education, including the promotion of health among teachers and other staff. (3,14) By 1990, more than 25 states had held a Seaside-style conference, (15) and nearly 60% of these conferences had a school employee wellness program component. (16) In recent years, several states have discontinued statewide school health promotion conferences because of lack of resources. Other states have incorporated school employee wellness program topics and activities into school health program institutes.

Healthy People 2010 national health Objective 7-5 to increase the proportion of worksites that offer comprehensive employee health promotion programs to 75% and objective 7-6 to increase the proportion of employees who participate in employer-sponsored health promotion activities to 75% (17) articulate federal-level support for employee wellness programs and activities. …

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