Thursday 18 October 2018

Why promoting health in the workplace pays off for staff

Many of us vow to be more healthy at this time of year. Employees in certain sectors in Sligo can get a head start thanks to health initiatives run by the Irish Heart Foundation.

Some workplaces are now running flagship healthy eating and activity programmes and have even recently been awarded for their efforts by the national charity.

Presenting the awards, Tim Collins, CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation said: "The workplace is an ideal setting for health promotion and the promotion of physical activity as a positive health behaviour.

"Our workplace programme has been central to our health promotion initiatives for two decades and it's very heartening to see so many companies across the country receiving our Healthy Eating and Active@Work awards and contributing greatly to the effort."

Research carried out by the IHF has found that promoting a healthy lifestyle at work leads to better productivity and lower levels of stress and absenteeism.

According to the charity fighting heart disease and stroke, there are also real bottom line benefits to workplace health promotion that provide wins for both the employer and the employee in terms of increased productivity and improved employee morale.

Tim Collins continued: "The good news is that 80% of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable through lifestyle change.

"This represents a huge opportunity to positively influence people's cardiovascular risk though encouraging and supporting active living, healthy eating and other healthy behaviours."

The Irish Heart Foundation's (IHF) annual Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards benefits 50,000 employees around Ireland each year.

Workplaces can apply for Bronze, Silver or Gold level awards.

An example of Gold Healthy Eating Award criteria is that fish is offered at least 50 percent of the week on the menu while a sample of a Gold Active@Work Award criteria is that a company develops a workplace policy encouraging physical activity.

This year, the following Sligo workplaces were awarded by the Irish Heart Foundation:

•St John's Community Hospital - Bronze Healthy Eating Award

•Sligo CTC, Cleveragh Industrial Park - Bronze Healthy Eating Award

•Sligo University Hospital - Bronze Active@Work Award

•HSE Environmental Health Service - Bronze Active@Work Award

Research shows that sitting for prolonged periods is associated with increased risk for heart disease and stroke, even if individuals are regularly physically active, while one third of premature heart disease has been associated with poor diets alone.

With one quarter of the food eaten by Irish adults prepared and cooked outside of the home, workplaces can play a key role in offering healthier food choices.

Clinical Lead for Obesity with the HSE Professor Donal O'Shea said: "Initiatives like the Irish Heart Foundation's workplace healthy eating and active at work awards are crucial to creating a healthier environment for adults in Ireland and making it easier to be at a healthy weight.

"We are all too well aware that physical inactivity and unhealthy eating are now the biggest drivers of illness in the developed world and underpin the doubling of obesity rates in Ireland over the last 30 years.

"There is no magic solution and we must get the whole of government, whole of industry and whole of society to come alive and take obesity on.

"With the Healthy Ireland framework, the Obesity Policy and Action plan, and forthcoming workplace health framework, public sector companies and agencies are strongly encouraged to make their workplace a healthier place and support staff to be more active.

"These Irish Heart Foundation awards really drive the healthy choice being made easier in the vital workplace environment."

Low levels of physical activity have a detrimental impact over time increasing risk of heart disease and stroke, the leading cause of death and disability.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation, increased physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 20% to 35% and it can prevent and lower blood pressure, reduce stress and help improve mood.

Furthermore, an active work force can boost productivity by 4-15%, absenteeism can reduce by up to 20% and workplace injuries can reduce by up to 25%.

The Irish Heart Foundation has been ahead of its time for over 20 years in delivering life-changing health messages both at individual and policy level to prevent people in Ireland unnecessarily developing heart disease or stroke, especially when 80% of these diseases are preventable.

To get support from the Irish Heart Foundation in setting up your own workplace wellness programme for 2018, email Enda Campbell at or call (01) 668 5001.

Sligo Champion