03/05/2013 - 14:09

$8m plan for healthy workplaces

03/05/2013 - 14:09

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The Heart Foundation has launched a government-funded scheme designed to help Western Australian businesses promote healthy lifestyles among their employees.

HELPING HAND: Trevor Shilton says the foundation is very serious about making a commitment to smaller and rural businesses. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

The Heart Foundation has launched a government-funded scheme designed to help Western Australian businesses promote healthy lifestyles among their employees.

The Healthier Workplace WA scheme has been awarded $8 million of funding over three years by the federal and state governments.

It is part of the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health, which will provide $932 million over nine years to 2018 to boost community health.

The Healthier Workplace WA scheme aims to target healthy eating habits in the workplace, reduce workplace smoking and increase physical exercise both during and after the working day.

The Heart Foundation is leading the delivery of the scheme alongside partners the Cancer Council WA and the University of Western Australia.

Specialist services are also available from Diabetes WA, the school canteen association and TravelSmart.

Research undertaken by the scheme has put the cost of lost productivity in the workplace due to obesity at $6.4 billion.

It also found that unhealthy workers take nine times more sick days per year than their healthy colleagues.

Heart Foundation director of cardiovascular health Trevor Shilton said the scheme was aimed at improving healthy practices in the workplace and engaging with businesses.

“We’re very serious about making a commitment to small businesses and to rural Western Australian businesses that are looking for help to build health programs,” Mr Shilton said.

“Bigger companies often already have systems in place; of course we can work with them to improve those methods but the scheme is also here to support small and medium-sized businesses.

“We have a number of things that are a big help, we have a team of advisers who can go out to workplaces and offer advice, we have small grants to support businesses kick-start these programs and we have a range of tools to help them get started.”

Mr Shilton said the scheme would be tailored to suit the needs of each workplace.

“The first thing you do with any workforce is assess their need and some have a greater need in one area than another and you tailor your program accordingly,” he said.

“It might be that some workplaces have a complete focus on nutrition for example or a high smoking problem and might want to offer smoking succession workshops.

“We’ll work with them identify their need and help them tailor a program accordingly.”

The director of UWA’s Centre for the Built Environment and Health, Fiona Bull, said the initiative would provide training and guidance on things that small businesses can do in their workplace.

“The technical expertise, the guidance and motivation from the program can support businesses and help them with basic ideas that they can implement in small ways that don’t drain other resources,” Professor Bull said.

The scheme has nine permanent staff but also draws on the resources of the Heart Foundation and Cancer Council as delivery partners along with online facilities.

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