A Qualitative examination of comprehensive workplace health promotion strategies in some workplaces in the districts of Simcoe and Muskoka [Ontario]
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The Ontario Public Health Standards [OPHS] (Ministry of Health and Long-term Care [MHLTC], 2008) recommend a population health promotion approach and evidence-based best practice for local boards of health to address lifestyle behaviours of employees in workplaces. To address chronic diseases in the workplace setting, the OPHS recommends a comprehensive health promotion approach including the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (World Health Organization, 1986) strategies of developing personal skills, creating supportive environments, building healthy public policy, and strengthening community action. Based on the OPHS requirements and the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion strategies, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit [SMDHU] developed the Healthy Steps at Work [HSAW] toolkit. This electronic resource has downloadable components for workplaces to implement all the strategies of a Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion [CWHP] program and for employees to improve their physical activity, healthy eating, and sun safety behaviours with a goal of reducing their risk of chronic disease development. Four key environmental supports for CWHP were identified: organizational commitment, wellness committees, organizational culture, and physical environment supports. The pilot sites appeared to gravitate toward the more basic skill building components in the HSAW toolkit and were hesitant to delve into the arena of policy development, community action, and program planning and evaluation, due to lack of knowledge and capacity. The results of this study revealed that more ongoing education is needed, as well as dissemination of examples and resources of best practices to instill more confidence and acceptance of the concept of CWHP in such workplaces. In order to make CWHP more of a priority, it may be helpful if government offers incentives, such as tax breaks, or create macro-level strategies.