Improving low-wage, midsized employers' health promotion practices: a randomized controlled trial

Am J Prev Med. 2012 Aug;43(2):125-33. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.04.014.


Background: The Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide) offers evidence-based intervention strategies to prevent chronic disease. The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center co-developed ACS Workplace Solutions (WPS) to improve workplaces' implementation of Community Guide strategies.

Purpose: To test the effectiveness of WPS for midsized employers in low-wage industries.

Design: Two-arm RCT; workplaces were randomized to receive WPS during the study (intervention group) or at the end of the study (delayed control group).

Setting/participants: Forty-eight midsized employers (100-999 workers) in King County WA.

Intervention: WPS provides employers one-on-one consulting with an ACS interventionist via three meetings at the workplace. The interventionist recommends best practices to adopt based on the workplace's current practices, provides implementation toolkits for the best practices the employer chooses to adopt, conducts a follow-up visit at 6 months, and provides technical assistance.

Main outcome measures: Employers' implementation of 16 best practices (in the categories of insurance benefits, health-related policies, programs, tracking, and health communications) at baseline (June 2007-June 2008) and 15-month follow-up (October 2008-December 2009). Data were analyzed in 2010-2011.

Results: Intervention employers demonstrated greater improvement from baseline than control employers in two of the five best-practice categories; implementing policies (baseline scores: 39% program, 43% control; follow-up scores: 49% program, 45% control; p=0.013) and communications (baseline scores: 42% program, 44% control; follow-up scores: 76% program, 55% control; p=0.007). Total best-practice implementation improvement did not differ between study groups (baseline scores: 32% intervention, 37% control; follow-up scores: 39% intervention, 42% control; p=0.328).

Conclusions: WPS improved employers' health-related policies and communications but did not improve insurance benefits design, programs, or tracking. Many employers were unable to modify insurance benefits and reported that the time and costs of implementing best practices were major barriers.

Trial registration: This study is registered at NCT00452816.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Benefit Plans, Employee / economics
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health*
  • Preventive Health Services / methods
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits*
  • Washington
  • Workplace / economics
  • Workplace / organization & administration
  • Young Adult

Associated data