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Open Access Research article

Healthcare workers' participation in a healthy-lifestyle-promotion project in western Sweden

Ingibjörg H Jonsdottir12*, Mats Börjesson3 and Gunnar Ahlborg14

Author Affiliations

1 The Institute of Stress Medicine, Carl Skottsbergs gatan 22B, SE 413 19 Gothenburg, Sweden

2 Department of Physiology, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

3 Department of Emergency and Cardiovascular Medicine, Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

4 Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:448  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-448

Published: 8 June 2011

Abstract

Background

Healthcare professionals play a central role in health promotion and lifestyle information towards patients as well as towards the general population, and it has been shown that own lifestyle habits can influence attitudes and counselling practice towards patients. The purpose of this study was to explore the participation of healthcare workers (HCWs) in a worksite health promotion (WHP) programme. We also aimed to find out whether HCWs with poorer lifestyle-related health engage in health-promotion activities to a larger extent than employees reporting healthier lifestyles.

Method

A biennial questionnaire survey was used in this study, and it was originally posted to employees in the public healthcare sector in western Sweden, one year before the onset of the WHP programme. The response rate was 61% (n = 3207). In the four-year follow-up, a question regarding participation in a three-year-long WHP programme was included, and those responding to this question were included in the final analysis (n = 1859). The WHP programme used a broad all-inclusive approach, relying on the individual's decision to participate in activities related to four different themes: physical activity, nutrition, sleep, and happiness/enjoyment.

Results

The participation rate was around 21%, the most popular theme being physical activity. Indicators of lifestyle-related health/behaviour for each theme were used, and regression analysis showed that individuals who were sedentary prior to the programme were less likely to participate in the programme's physical activities than the more active individuals. Participation in the other three themes was not significantly predicted by the indicators of the lifestyle-related health, (body mass index, sleep disturbances, or depressive mood).

Conclusion

Our results indicate that HCWs are not more prone to participate in WHP programmes compared to what has been reported for other working populations, and despite a supposedly good knowledge of health-related issues, HCWs reporting relatively unfavourable lifestyles are not more motivated to participate. As HCWs are key actors in promoting healthy lifestyles to other groups (such as patients), it is of utmost importance to find strategies to engage this professional group in activities that promote their own health.