Ring the changesOn 1 Jan 2000 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Next Article Aprogramme of preventative health launched for the benefit of employees wasregarded as dynamic when it was launched. An analysis of Lucas Care nine yearslater asks how many participants have altered their lifestyle. By Caroline MobleyEmployees’perceptions of a health screening programme offered to them at work resulted inquestions been raised about its success at encouraging individuals to altertheir lifestyles.Inthe mid-1980s the employees share fund at Cheltenham-based firm Lucas Bryce wasterminated and the assets transferred to the Lucas Employees Benefit Fund,which were held in trust for the benefit of Lucas employees. One of thebenefits it funded was a programme known as Lucas Care. When it was launched in1990, Lucas Care was a new and dynamic approach to preventative health at work.Its principal aim was to help achieve positive health through education,promotion and screening. The service was preventative in nature, based on selfhelp and professional support. The programme was designed to help employees toimprove their chances of a long and healthy life, by introducing the”Staying Healthy Programme”, well women screening, and an independentconfidential counselling service. TheStaying Healthy Programme identified health risks from diet, alcohol intake,measurement of blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, exercise and stress levels.Individual health programmes, designed to help employees understand the healthissues involved, encouraged lifestyle changes in an easy to follow, step bystep way to improve their state of health and reduce the risk of heart disease,stroke and cancer. Participation in the programme is entirely voluntary.Nineyears on and the success of the Staying Healthy Programme has beenconsiderable. The uptake rate is at least 75 per cent of the total workforce.Data collected is analysed so that we can understand the risks facingemployees, their attitude to these risks and the short and long benefitsgained, by compliance with the programmes.Analysishas shown that one in two employees had a cholesterol level above the desiredrange and of these, two in three are on the cholesterol intervention programme.One in three employees were not taking enough exercise and of these, one inthree are trying to increase their weekly level of exercise. One in fouremployees smoked and of these, one in two are on the smoking interventionprogramme. Ninety-threeper cent of employees who were considered overweight are now on the weight lossprogramme.In1997, an in-depth analysis of the 15,000 employees who had gone through thescreening programme was undertaken by the University of Birmingham. Resultsshowed that in the short term, employees who had followed the relevantintervention programmes, had shown an improvement. Long-termimprovements, however, were only sustained in four categories. These were areduction in stress levels, an increase in exercise and a slight drop in themeasurement of systolic blood pressure and of the number of cigarettes smoked.There was evidence that other intervention programmes or the advice from theoccupational health nurse, could also have a significant effect on the shortand long term benefits.Aswe approached the millennium, plans were made for new software to update theStaying Healthy Programme to become year 2000 compliant. To help improve thescreening service to employees, it was necessary to research employees’perceptions of the service in its current format, to review the effectivenessof the service and invite suggestions for improvement.Allof the employees who had undergone health screening during 1998 were selectedto participate in the survey. The most effective way to gather information wasto distribute a questionnaire. This focused on lifestyle screening and thespecific identified risks, blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, alcohol intake,smoking, stress and exercise levels. It also asked for feedback on the leafletsand health education given to them by the nurse, their impression of the printout of results, and following the screening if they had been encouraged to makepositive changes to their lifestyle, or had an increased understanding of theirhealth.Opinionswere requested about whether, by offering the service the company had shown aninterest in their health, and if they would recommend the service to fellowemployees. Finally they were asked to give a reason for what prompted them tohave the screening.Theresponse rate was excellent – 71 per cent. Over 60 per cent of respondentsstrongly agreed that the lifestyle screening was very important. The individualresults, leaflets and health education given by the nurse were perceived asvaluable. Most people were satisfied with the service and would recommendit. Most were prompted into having thescreening, either due to the time elapsed from the previous one, or because ofthe literature displayed in the workplace.Disappointingly,some respondents – 52 per cent did not feel encouraged to eat a healthier diet,exercise more, or make positive changes to their lifestyle. This may have beenbecause they did not need to make any changes or, that the information given tothem was insufficient, too complicated or too time consuming. However, thisparticular result did raise the question of the programmes success atencouraging individuals to alter their lifestyle to maintain or improve theirhealth.Individualsmay feel that as long as no abnormality is found and most of their results arewithin normal limits, they then do not have to do anything. Occupational healthexpertise and better use of the intervention programmes should be utilised, tohelp individuals plan and co-ordinate changes to their lifestyle. Increasedpromotion of the service, improved access to examples of best practice from theHealth Education Authority, the Health Promotion Unit, or from other companiesor organisations could be incorporated into the programme.Strangely,the greatest threat to Lucas Care is its success. The programme is now firmlyestablished and employees are actively encouraged to participate. Expectations often exceed what the programmecan achieve in relation to the avoidance of lifestyle risks.Freedomof choice is likely to maximise participation in the screening programme,although we must continue to do more to raise the level of awareness of stayinghealthy. Exploringnew initiatives, targeting and developing imaginative programmes, runningsupport groups, holding awareness sessions and increasing the amount ofinformation available should help employees to take control of their ownhealth, with Lucas Care continuing to support them.CarolineMobley RGN OHNC is occupational health adviser at Lucas Bryce in Cheltenham.Thewriter wishes to acknowledge Jan Calvert from the University of Birmingham andDr Jerry Beach, group occupational health physician at Lucas Varity, for theirstatistical analyses FurtherreadingOakleyK, Occupational Health Nursing, Chapter 6, part two: Research Guidelines,(1997), Jan Maw, pp124-138OurHealthier Nation Green Paper 1998 (HMSO)WaltonC, Lucas Care progress report (1996)Howthe programme has helped –It is available on a voluntary basis to all employees–The service is free–It is available on site, saving the time it would take to visit a GP–Employees have the opportunity to be better informed about their health–It encourages employees to undertake regular health screening and checks–Employees have the opportunity to reduce the risks of coronary heart disease, cancerand stroke–It has resulted in upgraded occupational health facilities and more highlytrained OH staff–There have been improvements in performance, efficiency, quality and morale Comments are closed.