The effectiveness of using the workplace to identify and address modifiable health risk factors in deprived populations
Objectives To establish whether a programme of targeted health screening, with referral to appropriate interventions, offered to an employed but socioeconomically deprived group was effective in overcoming barriers to uptake of such services and improving a range of surrogate health markers for participants.
Methods Low-paid local government employees from socially and economically deprived areas in North-East England were invited to attend a free health check. Health checks were conducted within working hours and close to their worksite, and included assessment of a range of lifestyle and health-related risk factors, including those associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). A range of additional interventions were offered where indicated. Participants were invited to repeat screening approximately 9 months later.
Results 635 (20% response rate) employees in the target age group (≥40 years) attended the first check. Most health risk markers improved in those (N=427) attending both health checks, as did the mean CVD risk score (t=2.86, p=0.004). 269 referrals were made to the intervention programmes.
Conclusions This workplace programme had a positive impact on cardiovascular health, but attendance rates were low. These findings suggest that workplace health screening activities may have the potential to improve health in a group often considered hard to reach by other routes, but do not offer a straightforward solution in overcoming barriers to access for such subgroups within the working population.