Programs for Encouraging Physical Activity and Coping with Obesity among Hospital Personnel

Ahmed Naser, Yaakov Berman, Rami Eliyahu, Daniel S. Moran
Department of Health Systems Management, School of Health Sciences, Ariel University



Background: Obesity and morbid obesity have become a global phenomenon, with significant implications for public health, morbidity and mortality rates, and national healthcare expenditure. One of the main reasons for this trend lies in the absence of sufficient physical activity and the development of a more sedentary lifestyle, most recently exacerbated by the digital revolution. Nowadays, only about one third of the world population follows the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations regarding physical activity. Obesity is common also among hospital workers, including physicians, but especially among low-income earners and shift workers, who constitute the majority of health-system employees. For this reason, various initiatives have been developed to encourage physical activity among medical staff in hospitals.


Aim: To review the various aspects and effectiveness of health promotion programs among hospital workers in Israel and the US


Methods: We searched the electronic databases of PubMed, ProQuest and Google Scholar for articles published between January, 2000 and May, 2016,using the following keywords: workplace, obesity, physical activity, physical exercise, and health promotion. Manuscripts included were in Hebrew and English only. Also searches of the official websites of the Ministries of Health of Israel and the USA, as well as of the WHO, were conducted.


Results: Eighteen manuscripts were found to be eligible for this review. In addition to mentioning the beneficial effects of programs on employees' health, findings pointed also to the beneficial outcomes for employers, among them greater employee  motivation, reduced employee absence rates, employees' increased identification with the organization, and the creation of a positive workplace image that can attract new workers. To succeed in the long-term, health promotion programs should include fun and challenging activities. It is important that the programs' implementation be combined with effective communication with all employees.


Conclusions: Health promotion programs established to encourage physical activity of healthcare employees contributed to coping with obesity among hospital workers. The programs were very efficient and effective in improving workers' health, reducing absenteeism, and improving employees' productivity. The success of health promotion programs in the workplace depends on the support of the senior management, the allocation of sufficient resources, and accessibility to and flexibility of the activities hours.


Keywords: physical exercise, obesity, workplace, sedentary lifestyle, health promotion.

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