The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced today the availability of $10 million to establish and evaluate comprehensive workplace health promotion programs across the nation to improve the health of American workers and their families. The initiative, with funds from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, is aimed at improving workplace environments so that they support healthy lifestyles and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
“Spiraling health care costs and declines in worker productivity due to poor health are eroding the bottom line of American businesses,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “This new initiative will help companies of all sizes implement strategies to improve employee health and contain health costs driven largely by chronic diseases.”
Funds will be awarded through a competitive contract to an organization with the expertise and capacity to work with groups of employers across the nation to develop and expand workplace health programs in small and large worksites. Participating companies will educate employees about good health practices and establish work environments that promote physical activity and proper nutrition and discourage tobacco use—the key lifestyle behaviors that reduce employees’ risk for chronic disease.
“This is an exciting opportunity to help employers deliver effective workplace health programs on a national scale,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which oversees the initiative. “The promise of this strategy is a win-win: workers will be healthier and more productive, and companies will be more profitable.
Project funds will support evidence-based initiatives to build worksite capacity and improve workplace culture in support of health. Examples of such strategies include establishing tobacco-free campus policies, promoting flextime to allow employees to be more physically active, and offering more healthy food choices in worksite cafeterias and vending machines. A core principle of the initiative is to maximize employee engagement in designing and implementing the programs so they have the greatest chances of success.
The Obama Administration recognizes the importance of a broad approach to addressing the health and well-being of our communities, and June is Prevention & Wellness Month. Other initiatives put forth by the Obama Administration to promote prevention include the President’s Childhood Obesity Task Force and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative aimed at combating childhood obesity, as well as the National Prevention Council, which is charged with designing and implementing a National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy.
Organizations interested in submitting proposals for the Comprehensive Health Programs to Address Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Tobacco Use in the Workplace can find more information at www.fbo.gov . The application deadline is August 8, 2011. A separate funding opportunity is available for a national evaluation of the initiative and can also be found at www.fbo.gov  .