Total Worker Health in Rural Workplaces: Challenges of Implementation and Follow-Up

Workplaces continue to struggle with cost incurred in areas of both health protection and health promotion.  Rural locations can present some additional challenges for workplaces wanting to create a healthier environment.  Unhealthy rural liestyles (higher smoking rates, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diets) often lead to workforces that experience higher rates of mortality and morbidity than their suburban counterparts.  Total Worker Health (TWH), defined as the integration of health protection and health promotion along with the strategic coordination of policies, programs and practices, creates a shared responsibility for health and safety between employer and employee.  Few studies have assessed the integration of health promotion and health protection in rural workplaces with follow-up action plans to address gaps discovered through the assessment process.  There are three objectives in this study:  1) to identify barriers of integration in rural workplaces through both quantitative and qualitative assessments; 2) develop and implement interventions that address the identified barriers; 3) evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of the interventions.  Information on a workplace’s ability to integrate workplace wellness programs and workers’ health protection programs will be collected through the administration of a structured questionnaire along with a seven question interview.