Workplace environments that facilitate employees' healthy lifestyle choices have been shown to help reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, improve employee recruiting and retention, reduce health care costs and improve employee satisfaction. To improve employee health and relieve the burden of rising health care costs, The Duke Endowment in 1996 launched a four-year, $5.7 million effort to encourage hospitals to promote preventative strategies in the workplace.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the rising cost of health care put economic pressure on businesses in the Carolinas. The lack of workplace support for good practices such as healthy eating, exercise and weight control, combined with a general tolerance for tobacco and environmental pollutants, led to increased risk factors for workers. At the time, only a few hospitals had fledgling wellness programs for employees.
The Duke Endowment saw workplace wellness programs as a unique opportunity for hospitals to improve the health of people in their communities and strengthen ties with local employers. The Endowment felt that such programs could help area businesses cut health care costs for the workforce, reduce absenteeism and turnover, and improve morale and productivity.
In 1996, the Endowment began awarding grants to help hospitals develop and replicate workplace wellness programs. By offering fitness plans, nutritional education and health risk screenings to workers, the programs targeted preventable, underlying causes of common illnesses.
See participating sites in North Carolina and South Carolina.