New Study Reveals U.S. Employers are Doing More to Promote Employee Health and Safety

April 26, 2019

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK. N.C. — With more than half of adults in the U.S. spending most of their waking hours at work, workplaces are an important setting for promoting health and safety. A new study by RTI International addresses the current state of workplace health and safety programs and finds that 46 percent of worksites in the U.S. offer some type of health promotion program but wide variances occur based on the number of employees at a worksite  from 39 percent with 10-24 employees to 92 percent for firms with more than 500 employees. Comprehensive health promotion programs, which include health education, supportive environments, health screenings, and integration with and linkages to other programs, showed an increase from 7 percent in 2004 to 17 percent in 2017.

“Chronic health conditions are very costly to employers and to the overall U.S. economy,” stated Laurie Cluff, RTI International workplace health and safety research psychologist and project director for the study. “Our results provide a useful snapshot of what employers are trying to do to help promote employee health.”

As part of the study, RTI developed a unique, interactive dashboard for employers and other stakeholders to easily access the results and compare what they are doing with similar employers. The data has been made public so that others can do their own analyses.

The goals of the study were to describe the current state of U.S. workplace health promotion and protection programs and practices in worksites of all sizes, industries and regions; provide free and accessible data for employers to benchmark their practices against other employers of similar size and type; build an infrastructure to evaluate national workplace health priorities, monitor trends and address emerging issues; and to provide a better understanding of promising practices to inform the development of tools and resources.

The study, conducted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Workplace Health Program with partner University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Public Health, involved significant coordination and innovative thinking. RTI collaborated with CDC and UNC to work with a diverse group of subject experts to develop a new survey instrument that combined items from previous workplace health surveys with new items to capture emerging issues and evidence-based practices. RTI’s strong background in evaluating workplace health and safety programs, combined with its deep methodological experience conducting large establishment surveys, was pivotal for the study’s successful completion. More information about RTI’s work in workplace health and safety programs can be found here.