Economic growth has been fundamental to the general improvement in health in the industrial world during the last century. Health gain was achieved within a process of building up social capital and also as a result of increasing investment in improving the working environment, housing, nutrition, education, and health care and by addressing the other needs of the whole population. Economic development has also recently been associated with increased investments to reduce or eliminate pollution of different environmental byproducts.
The average age of the work force is increasing very rapidly. With the current disability pension systems, a major proportion of the aged work force will leave working life, and this trend will inevitably bring higher rates of long-term unemployment amongst the elderly work force.
There is a need for a major reconsideration of the social policy and social insurance policy, with an investment in protecting and promoting the working ability of the economically active working population. The current trends will otherwise lead to considerable problems in financing social security systems and maintaining the important safety net that they provide. This will require changes to the social security systems which include systems of incentives that reward active participation in working life and early return to work following any period of illness or infirmity. The active participation of employers, and their occupational health services, will be required to achieve these goals. Occupational health advisors are well placed to initiate, support and evaluate interventions which can be used to promote early, safe and successful rehabilitation programs at the workplace. Investment in protection and promotion of health, may not only support the wellbeing of the individual, but can be justified on purely economic grounds.
The companies that comply with national policies in public health, health and safety, workplace health promotion and environmental health management, as part of a comprehensive workplace health management system can expect to reap some or all of the following benefits.
- Improves sustainable development at a national and area level
- Helps to protect the economic independence of the working population
- Improved integration of disabled people into the economically active workforce
- Increased productivity, competitiveness and profitability
- Increased probability of economic investment
- Improved self-regulation and adjustment of insurance system to seek benefits of preventives activities
- Increase probability of reduce social insurance premium
- Increase probability of reduced costs of health care system
- more efficient use of existing knowledge and skills
- Improved economic stability
- Increase life expectancy
- Increase disability-free life expectancy
- Increase working ability
- Increased age of employees’ working potential
- Increase proportion of employees free from occupational and work related diseases and injuries
- Increase percentage of employees and pensioners free from serious disability due to chronic communicable diseases
- Increased proportion of society with healthy lifestyle
- Increased equity in health between different professions and economic sectors
Social and wellbeing benefits
- Improved social image of company
- Improved self-esteem of employees
- Increased quality of working life
- Improved compliance with existing legislation
- Increased employment opportunities for people with slight work disability due to chronic diseases or injures
- Increased participation of employees in organization of their own work
- Increased awareness of society on social, environmental, occupational and lifestyle health and wellbeing factors
- Increased knowledge on effective use on natural resources
- Increased professional skills of employees
- Increased managerial skills of employees
- Increased ability of employees to cope with demands of working life
- Increased knowledge of employees on legal requirements and their rationale concerning health and safety at work and environment management of the company.
- Increased employability
- Increased potential for social justice
- Increased awareness of characteristics and social value of good management
- Increased efficiency in using natural recourses
- Increased number of companies with improved pollution prevention mechanisms and reduced wastes.
- Increased number of companies managing environmental issue in compliance with legal requirements.
- Increased number of companies managing environmental issue using principles and methods of such strategies as Cleaner Production, Eco-efficiency, Green Productivity, and Pollution Prevention.
Occupational health advisors, working independently or as part of a multi-professional occupational health service can make a significant contribution to the achievement of these goals. As occupational health advisors are the single largest group of healthcare professionals involved in delivering occupational health services, their active participation in and support of Workplace Health Management is essential if this national strategy is to succeed.