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Physicians' role in work-based health programs


In a presentation, Nancy Brown, CEO of American Heart Association, highlighted key findings of the AHA’s CEO Roundtable conducted to learn more about the state of workplace health and employee perceptions in the United States.

Given statistics that show that the United States is among the most obese nations in the world, with 99% of adults in less than "ideal cardiovascular health” as defined by the American Heart Association (AHA), efforts are underway by the association to encourage physicians to work with their patients to participate in health prevention programs offered in the workplace.

“The AHA has deepened its commitment to the workplace, where 155 million Americans spend most of their time each and every week,” said Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association. “We are engaging corporate leaders to build healthier workplace environments, adopt evidence-based policies, and engage employees and families to adopt healthy behaviors that dramatically reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,”

In her presentation entitled “The Role of Leadership in Building A Workplace Culture of Health” delivered during the AHA meeting, Brown highlighted key findings of the AHA’s CEO Roundtable conducted to learn more about the state of workplace health and employee perceptions in the United States.

From a country-wide survey of employees, Brown said a key finding was “a fundamental disconnect between how people perceive their health and their actual health status.”

The survey showed that most employees overestimate their health status, with 74% of surveyed adults reporting being in very good or good health but of these 42% have been diagnosed with a chronic illness.

According to Brown, this overestimation of health status puts these people at greater risk for heart disease and other serious illnesses. She said that a main reason why people overestimate their health is that most people don’t know what their biometric numbers are on measures that affect cardiovascular health such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, and fasting glucose levels.

Another key finding of the roundtable was the importance of leadership and culture in providing successful workplace health programs. Saying that the entire organization has a role to play, Brown emphasized that encouragement from senior management is vital. “Leadership also has the power to create healthy workplaces and policies that support employee health,” she said.

A third key finding was that a well-designed workplace health program can have a positive impact on employee health and workplace outcomes.

Finally, Brown highlighted that workplace programs are seen as important, particularly among employees who feel encouraged to participate. “Employees who report being in a supportive environment are more likely to believe employers provide workplace health programs because they genuinely care about the health of employees,” she said.

“Therefore, an opportunity exists for physicians to be working with patients to ensure that they are taking advantage of health promotion programs in their workplace,” she said. 

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health