World Heart Federation
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WORLD HEART DAY 2009: “WORK WITH HEART”

World Heart Day, being celebrated on 27 September 2009, is calling on people to “Work with Heart”: take action in the workplace to improve health and productivity and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Currently, one-third of the global workforce suffers from preventable diseases and by 2025 the burden of such diseases is expected to increase by 25%. This does not include the expected impact of the economic downturn on employees’ mental and physical health, which is why it is so important for companies to continue investing in employee health.

Educating people through workplace wellness programmes

Almost 50% of those who die from chronic diseases, including CVD are in their productive years, which makes the workplace a great place to educate people on their risks and offer solutions though wellness programmes. Over 17.2 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases, making them the leading cause of death worldwide. Yet 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided by controlling the main risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

The workplace allows access to an estimated 54% of the world’s population providing the ideal platform to inspire individuals and groups to be aware that working with a healthy heart has health, social, economic and psychological benefits. Each individual can be the bodyguard of his or her heart health and enjoy a longer and more productive life. Workplace wellness programmes have been shown to have many benefits, for both employees and employers.

Reaching workers, families and communities

Businesses around the world, as well as leading organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum have recognized the importance of employee health to achieve core business objectives. Many have committed to include health promotion on their corporate agenda. This year’s World Heart Day will support the “Working towards wellness” initiative set up by the World Economic Forum, in which the World Heart Federation plays a key advocacy role.

To date, it is mostly large corporations in developed countries that offer workplace health programmes. There is an urgent need to extend these benefits to all employees, in other industries and sectors, and in other parts of the world. In particular, workers in low- and middle-income countries, where over 80% of deaths from cardiovascular disease currently occur, could benefit greatly from the implementation of such programmes. “We have to move from illness to wellness. Businesses will have to invest in wellness. There is no choice. It’s not philanthropy. It’s enlightened self-interest.”  Shrinivas M. Shanbhag, Medical Adviser, Reliance Industries, India.

Workplace health promotion programmes have been shown to yield an excellent return on investment.  For example, in 2005, a comprehensive study1 confirmed earlier findings that workplace programmes can achieve a 25–30% reduction in medical and absenteeism costs in an average period of about 3.6 years. There are also clear health benefits, both short-and-long term, for individuals, their families and communities.

About workplace wellness programmes

Workplace wellness programmes do not need to be complex or expensive. Simple changes that have been taken up by workplaces include:

  1. Offering information to workers, such as leaflets telling people about the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  2. Establishment of health policies, e.g. no tobacco use in the building.
  3. Encouraging good eating habits, e.g. offering information about the calorie and fat content of canteen food, adding more whole grain meals, natural products, fruits and vegetables on the menu.
  4. Encouraging workers to exercise during their breaks. A moderate amount of exercise – at least 30 minutes a day – can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  5. Offering easy access to drinking water for employees, partners and suppliers in office buildings, outdoor worksites and in meeting rooms.
  6. Providing heart health checks to workers (blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels are measured, together with their waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index) to identify individual risk and advising on appropriate action, where necessary.

Members chose the campaign slogan and key image

This year the campaign slogan and image were chosen further to the results of a cross-regional survey amongst some of our members. Thank you to all of you who participated, your input was invaluable in developing this year’s campaign. It is because of your commitment, over the years that World Heart Day has gone from strength to strength and we look forward to your continued support.

Latest information:   www.worldheartday.org
Questions or comments on World Heart Day, email: cynthia.haro(at)worldheart.org

 

1 Chapman L. Meta-evaluation of worksite health promotion economic return studies. Art of Heath Promotion, July/August 2005; 1-15. 
Chapman L. Meta-evaluation of worksite health promotion economic return studies. Art of Heath Promotion, 2003; 6:1-16

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