Background: The workplace has been identified as a promising setting for health promotion, and many worksite health promotion programmes have been implemented in the past years. Research has mainly focused on the effectiveness of these interventions. For implementation of interventions at a large scale however, information about (determinants of) participation in these programmes is essential. This systematic review investigates initial participation in worksite health promotion programmes, the underlying determinants of participation, and programme characteristics influencing participation levels.
Methods: Studies on characteristics of participants and non-participants in worksite health promotion programmes aimed at physical activity and/or nutrition published from 1988 to 2007 were identified through a structured search in PubMed and Web of Science. Studies were included if a primary preventive worksite health promotion programme on PA and/or nutrition was described, and if quantitative information was present on determinants of participation.
Results: In total, 23 studies were included with 10 studies on educational or counselling programmes, 6 fitness centre interventions, and 7 studies examining determinants of participation in multi-component programmes. Participation levels varied from 10% to 64%, with a median of 33% (95% CI 25-42%). In general, female workers had a higher participation than men (OR = 1.67; 95% CI 1.25-2.27]), but this difference was not observed for interventions consisting of access to fitness centre programmes. For the other demographic, health- and work-related characteristics no consistent effect on participation was found. Pooling of studies showed a higher participation level when an incentive was offered, when the programme consisted of multiple components, or when the programme was aimed at multiple behaviours.
Conclusion: In this systematic review, participation levels in health promotion interventions at the workplace were typically below 50%. Few studies evaluated the influence of health, lifestyle and work-related factors on participation, which hampers the insight in the underlying determinants of initial participation in worksite health promotion. Nevertheless, the present review does provide some strategies that can be adopted in order to increase participation levels. In addition, the review highlights that further insight is essential to develop intervention programmes with the ability to reach many employees, including those who need it most and to increase the generalizability across all workers.