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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

American Cancer Society Program Boosts Workplace Health Promotion, Washington Finds

An American Cancer Society program, The CEOs Challenge, increased health promotion efforts at large companies, according to a University of Washington School of Public Health study.

The study of 17 large companies in Washington state found a substantial increase in the use of evidence-based health promotion practices after the first year of the program. Scores for healthy eating and cancer screening increased the most, while efforts to promote physical activity and tobacco cessation also improved.

“The CEOs Challenge is a promising approach to chronic disease prevention in the workplace,” said the researchers, led by Dr. Jeffrey Harris, professor and chair of the department of health services. “It brings together one of the nation’s largest health-promoting voluntary agencies with the nation’s largest employers to promote evidence-based practices targeted at the most common causes of disease and death.”

Researchers from the School’s Health Promotion Research Center, one of 26 Prevention Research Centers funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teamed up with the American Cancer Society and its Chief Executive Officers Against Cancer Network to adapt Workplace Solutions, a program designed to promote health at the workplace.

The updated program, called The CEOs Challenge, annually scores a company’s efforts to support employee health while also allowing chief executives to see how their own company stacks up against other firms. Companies also receive ongoing support and advice from the American Cancer Society.

For the 17 participating companies, cancer screening practices improved by an average of nearly 20 points on a scale from 0 to 100, from 54.8 to 74.4. Healthy eating scores increased by an average of more than 19 points, from 46.5 to 65.9, with companies improving efforts to post nutritional content and providing healthy catering for meetings and events.

Ms. Stephanie Christensen, executive vice president, American Cancer Society Great West Division, called the study results exciting. “Cancer screenings save lives and many cancers can also be prevented through healthy eating, being physically active and avoiding tobacco,” she said. “The workplace is the perfect place to provide individuals access to this information. It saves lives and it’s good for business.”

CEOs also hailed the results.

“CEOs Against Cancer is a win-win for both our company and our employees,” said Mr. Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Group. “We care about the health and well-being of our people. This program leverages the collective knowledge, power and resources of the American Cancer Society while helping our business with increased productivity, lower absenteeism and having a positive impact on our bottom line in terms of health care costs.”

Mr. Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, said it is important for business leaders to come together to gain a better understanding of underlying health issues affecting their employees. “The CEOs Against Cancer Challenge has allowed for idea-sharing across a range of industries to address these wellness concerns,” he said. “Most importantly, it provides guidance to leadership on changes we can make within our own organizations to improve the culture of health in the workplace and our communities.”

Co-authors of the study, published in the CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease, were Ms. Amanda Parrish, Ms. Marlana Kohn, Ms. Kristen Hammerback and Dr. Peggy Hannon from the University of Washington and Ms. Becca McMillan of the American Cancer Society.