Work-site cancer control programs can significantly improve the nutritional habits of its participants, new research reports. Results from the Working Well Trial, the largest workplace cancer control trial in the United States, showed significant improvement of the nutritional environment at the 55 work-sites with cancer control programs and the eating habits of many of their 9,000 employees.
On three-year follow-up, workers at the sites reported they were getting healthier cafeteria food, greater access to fruit and vegetables, less fat, more fiber, and better labeling of the content of vending machine snacks.
"American cancer control programs have been criticized for focusing almost exclusively on changing individual health behaviors and neglecting opportunities to involve the physical and social environments of the work site," said Lois Biener, PhD, principal investigator of the trial. "But here is a trial that impacts on the work-site itself, to bring about individual changes in health behavior."
"The experimental interventions involved employee advisory boards who worked with researchers to identify ways to improve their co-workers' dietary habits," said Biener. "For example, they encouraged cafeteria managers and vending machine companies to include more low-fat, high-fiber snacks among their offerings and to put nutritional labels in prominent places. Competitions were held in which employees modified traditional family recipes to meet low-fat high-fiber criteria and shared them on the job at taste tests and recipe contests."
As a result, the trial changed the atmosphere at the work site. In addition to increased access to healthy food, employees experienced support from their co-workers and from management for trying to follow diets that placed them at lower risk for cancer.
The results were contrasted with outcomes in a comparison group of 56 work-sites
with about 9,000 workers that did not have cancer-control programs. The rep
Contact: Lois Biener, Ph.D.
Center for the Advancement of Health