Peggy Hannon, director of the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington School of Public Health, was recently awarded a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand a workplace wellness program for smaller employers nationwide.
The grant will extend the reach of the center’s Connect to Wellness program (formerly known as HealthLinks), which helps small businesses in Washington state create healthier workplaces through evidence-based interventions.
“I’m excited that we have this opportunity to reach beyond Washington state with a program that can make it easier for small employers in low-wage industries to support their employees’ healthy choices,” says Hannon, associate professor of health services at the UW School of Public Health. “Now we can discover whether training and supporting local health departments is a viable path to disseminating Connect to Wellness across the country.”
About half of employed Americans work for businesses with fewer than 250 employees. Their workplaces, especially those in low-wage industries, have less health promotion programming and resources available to employees.
The research team will train staff in 40 local health departments across the country to deliver the Connect to Wellness program to small workplaces in their communities. Hannon and collaborators will compare the effectiveness of two different implementation strategies – standard and enhanced technical assistance combined with online training – to determine future feasibility for health departments that may consider offering it. They’ll also measure the costs for each strategy, both to local health departments and to the research team.
The original Connect to Wellness program was pilot tested at 69 worksites in Seattle and King County. Participating companies showed significant increases in physical activity programs, health behavior policies and health information communication.