Dietitians publish key findings on workplace health programmes

Healthy food at workWe spend around 60 percent of our life at work and consume at least a third of our daily food intake, which is why the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has announced that the theme of office for its new Chairman, Dr Fiona McCullough, will be workplace health. Responding to recent policies such as the NHS Five Year Forward View and the NICE public health guidance for the workplace, which recognise that businesses benefit from investing in the wellbeing of employees, the BDA is conducting a review of published peer-reviewed evidence of workplace health studies in order to determine how best individuals and employers can optimise health at work. This review will underpin the development of a BDA Work Ready Programme, which has produced interim research that has already highlighted the key role employers can play in enhancing the wellbeing of staff.

The interim findings from the BDA Work Ready Programme review concluded:

  1. While, ultimately, individuals are responsible for their own lifestyles, behaviours are largely influenced by the actual workplace, which is why the best wellbeing programmes aim to target change at all levels.
  2. Weight management programmes in the workplace were most effective when used in combination with physical activity advice.
  3. Interventions around eating and lifestyle behaviours, such as fruit and vegetable intake, for cardio vascular disease risk prevention etc. are moderately successful.
  4. Dietitians are most effective at influencing change for individuals via one to one or group sessions; and also change for organisations by advising on food and drink provision and healthy lifestyle behaviours in the workplace.
  5. Effective leadership in the workplace, creating a culture of wellness and good communication are key markers to successful workplace health programmes.

The next steps in the programme will be to publish a full white paper outlining the crucial role that well designed nutrition and activity programmes play in the prevention of long term conditions, driving productivity and the reduction sickness absence with measures such as healthy weight. This will be published by the BDA in July, with additional resources, including a dedicated website which targets the public, employers and health professionals.

Speaking about the findings of the BDA Work Ready Programme report, BDA Chairman, Dr Fiona McCullough, said: “One in six working people live with a long term condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, or a disability, but eating and living well can help support these and all workers to build and maintain healthier lives.

Later this year, the British Dietetic Association will roll out an accredited programme and framework that will enable dietitians around the UK to work with employers to bring about positive health benefits for their wider workforces.”

Adding her views, Chair of the BDA Work Ready Programme steering group and dietitian, Alison Clark, added: “Like it or not, we spend around 60 percent of our life at work and we consume at least a third of our daily food intake while there.”

“Workplace health interventions could include nutrition workshops, food demos and a number of other services, with a bespoke design to meet the needs of individual work forces.”