Promoting health in the workplace
The workplace has been accepted by health professionals and planners as a 'setting' for health promotion. With a paucity of information about health promoting action in the Scottish workplace, this study sought to identify information which would assist health promoters to develop this area of work. Two inter-related investigations were directed to the Ultimate Decision Makers in a range of Scottish business: first, a postal survey to identify the nature and occurrence of health promotion; and second, a series of interviews to explore those factors which encourage and/or deter action in a selection of high and low health promoting businesses. The study showed that whilst there are health promoting actions occurring, they are predominantly mechanistic in nature - to conform to laws, solve a problem or avoid litigation. Beyond these influences, the nature and extent to which health is promoted is very dependent on the personal characteristics of the ultimate decision maker, and to a lesser degree, a variety of other key decision makers. The decision makers' concepts of health and its promotion rarely coincided with those of the health professionals in that action was more likely to be based on coping with the absence of health rather than its enhancement. The business in the study lacked staff with knowledge and skills concerning health promotion and the methods used by professionals to make contact with workplace personnel did not appear to coincide with the way businesses are organised. Moreover changes in the Business world are enabling employers to exploit the 'healthy worker' effect AND avoid long term responsibility for employees. Thus the motivation to promote the health of the workforce is reduced. As a consequence, the factors which made the workplace attractive to health professionals as a 'setting' for health promotion may be disappearing.