Date of Award

4-27-2009

Degree Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Frances McCarty, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Rodney Lyn, Ph.D., MS

Abstract

Introduction: Adult obesity is a significant public health problem, increasing chronic disease and resulting in health and economic implications. The worksite environment provides a setting for comprehensive Worksite Health Promotion programs that can benefit employees and employers. However, the literature identifies barriers to implementation of WHP programs and achievement of positive outcomes. The purpose of this study was to determine if a DeKalb County Board of Health Employee Wellness Policy that provides work breaks during the workday for employees to engage in wellness activities has resulted in actual use of the break and employee perceived benefits. The study also examined barriers to use of the wellness break. Methods: In collaboration with the DeKalb County Board of Health, a cross-sectional study of 187 employees across eight locations was conducted. The survey instrument included both quantitative and qualitative questions and was administered electronically or in person via group administration. Results: Of survey respondents, 74% knew about the Employee Wellness Policy, 57% understood policy guidelines, and 41% had ever used wellness breaks. Respondents most often reported using wellness breaks for physical activity, most often for walking/jogging. A majority of employees using wellness breaks reported positive outcomes including: increased physical activity (64.4%), weight loss (65.2%), increased productivity (79.5%), improved work relationships (86%), increased work morale (64.4%), and increased overall positive outlook (69.9%). Barriers to utilization included: lack of time, lack of knowledge, lack of encouragement from management, and clinical setting. Management employees were significantly more likely to know about the policy and understand policy guidelines compared to non-management employees. Clinical employees were significantly less likely to ever use wellness breaks and less likely to feel their manager supports the policy. Conclusion: Sampled employees participating in wellness breaks perceive health and work-related benefits; however barriers have prevented some employees from utilizing the breaks. Quantitative and qualitative data may inform wellness policy changes for improved utilization and outcomes. Findings related to self-reported employee outcomes provide some support for a discretionary paid work break policy in the workplace.

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