UI HWCE Study Addresses Integrated Safety and Wellness Solutions

View this email in your browser

Center Study Addresses Integrated Solutions

Participatory Ergonomics & Wellness Coaching Yield Health Improvements

Musculoskeletal pain (pain affecting the muscles, bones, or joints) is a very common complaint among workers and results in a large number of missed days from work and workers’ compensation claims. Nathan Fethke, professor of occupational and environmental health, received funding from the University of Iowa’s Healthier Workforce Center to develop and evaluate a workplace program to address this critical issue in a large window manufacturing company. His research team combined wellness coaching about employee-identified issues (e.g., physical activity, stress reduction, weight loss) with a participatory ergonomic approach. Ergonomics is the science of designing and arranging people and equipment so that tasks can be done more efficiently and safely. The ergonomic assessment was based on video footage of employees performing actual manufacturing tasks that was analyzed to reveal ergonomic issues that could be easily addressed by modifying the task, equipment, or physical position of the employee relative to the task.  Participatory ergonomics makes full use of worker involvement in the assessment process, recognizing that the worker is the expert of his or her job.  Employers then addressed those ergonomic problems by making changes to the equipment, work schedule, table height, etc. Both the wellness coaching and the ergonomic changes resulted in significant reductions in musculoskeletal pain. The wellness coaching also yielded significant improvements in self-reported overall health and fewer physical limitations.

Workplace Health and Wellness Coaching

Employers are always looking for new and innovative ways to help employees improve health, reduce costs associated with employees’ health conditions, and improve morale. Integrating health and wellness coaching into an existing health promotion program may be one way to achieve these goals. Health and wellness coaching is a partnership between a certified health and wellness coach and an individual or group of people with the objective of achieving some type of health or wellness goal. Coaching has been traditionally used in patient-care settings, but is gaining popularity as a way to reduce health care cost for employers.

Types of coaching
Coaching can be delivered in a variety of ways. The most common delivery methods are telephonic, face-to face, and internet-based coaching. The good news is that all methods seem to be effective at promoting behavior changes! It can also be delivered one-to-one or in small groups.

What are people talking about with coaches?
Health and wellness coaching is a client-driven process that is customized based on individual needs. Coaching is effective in changing attitudes and behaviors related to a variety of health issues. Some of the hot topics that are being discussed with coaches are: exercise/physical activity, obesity/weight management, cholesterol management, diet/nutrition, preventative screening, stress, and tobacco cessation.

Linking to existing programs
Coaching can be integrated into existing health promotion and health protection programs that are important to the structure and culture of the employer. A few ways employers are offering coaching to employees is through: health benefits plan offerings (e.g., coaches are provided by insurance company), independent vendors specializing in health promotion services and through on-site staff dedicated to health promotion activities. Coaching may also enhance the effects of other health improvement programs (e.g., ergonomics and safety training, tobacco cessation and weight loss programs) offered by employers.

Impact of coaching
Coaching as a way to improve health is applicable to people of different gender, age, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and employment situations. Recent research also shows that health and wellness coaching has a positive effect on employees’ physical and mental health, both of which play a role in chronic diseases and workplace injuries.

UI HWCE Seeks Assistance of Small Employers!

If you are a small employer with 10-249 employees and would be interested in evaluating future videos, please register here. Stay tuned for a new video every month.

UI HWCE Announces Pilot Funding

The Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence at the University of Iowa is pleased to announce the availability of funds for new investigator pilot projects. Investigators are invited to submit applications for creative research that focuses on integrated approaches to worker health. Projects must integrate health protection and health promotion. New investigators may include junior faculty, post-doctoral trainees, medical residents and fellows, doctoral students, senior scientific staff, and senior faculty new to Total Worker Health™ and HWCE programs. The maximum permitted budget is $30,000 and the application deadline is March 13, 2015. 

For more information and proposal guidelines, visit the HWCE website or download the RFP. Letters of intent, proposals and administrative questions should be sent to the Center Coordinator, Dr. Kevin Kelly, at

Save the Dates!
April 16-17, 2015
Join Dr. L. Casey Chosewood for an opening session on the value of Total Worker Health™ during the 17th Annual Occupational Health Symposium in Cedar Rapids, IA. Agenda and registration information coming soon.

News & Events

Visit our online calendar for more upcoming events and opportunities.

April 1-3, 2015 in San Diego, CA; Join top researchers and scientists for the latest workplace health promotion trends and strategies. HWCE's Jenny Hall will also present breakout sessions on Total Worker Health.

April 14-15, 2015 in Cedar Rapids, IA: Network and learn from public health professionals on a wide variety of topics.  Opportunities to exhibit, sponsor and advertise are still available.

May 6-9, 2015
Network and learn from professionals on the ever-changing nature of work and its implications on the health, safety and well-being of workers.


Contact Us!

Questions, comments or ideas for future newsletters? Contact us at
The UI Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence (HWCE) is one of four Total Worker Health™ Centers of Excellence funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  Our mission is to improve the health of workers in Iowa and nationally through integrated health promotion and health protection research, collaboration, and dissemination of successful interventions.

Copyright © 2015 UI HWCE. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
IREH #102, UI Research Park
Iowa City, IA 52242

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences