This was featured in The Guardian in May and looked at how businesses are starting to recognise their public health role, with almost 400 signing up to a Department of Health ‘responsibility deal’ to improve workers’ health.
Working-age ill-health costs the UK economy an annual £100bn, so there are clear business benefits for employers to improve the health of their workers.
Wellbeing initiatives can prevent absenteeism and improve productivity. The government-sponsored Frost/Black report in 2011, for example, outlines how avoidable sickness absence could be tackled through early intervention with occupational health support, including physiotherapy.
Employers are starting to recognise their public health role; almost 400 organisations have, according to latest figures, pledged support for the Department of Health’s public health “responsibility deal”.
The voluntary pledge involves businesses and public-sector bodies promising to take action in four areas: alcohol, food, health at work and physical activity. A report in March by the House of Commons health committee, which looked at the impact of diet and physical activity on health, underlined the role of the responsibility deal, adding that it could have even more of an impact if it was supported by more regulation.
Camden and Islington NHS foundation trust has joined the responsibility deal’s health pledge. Promoting public health among healthcare professionals is vital. According to the government’s 2009 Boorman Report, more days are lost through staff sickness in the NHS than elsewhere in the public sector, with sick leave costing the health service £1.7bn a year. In addition a report last year by Arthritis Research UK revealed musculoskeletal problems are a major cause of ill health among NHS staff, costing about £400m per year. “We need to practice what we preach,” says Zipporah Jempeji, the trust’s human resources, wellbeing and benefits manager.
This is definitely a step in the right direction and I wonder how many workers will feel safe about approaching their employer about alcohol issues? Would you have?