The United States experiences a tremendous loss of productivity in the workplace because of preventable health problems. An average of 154 American workers die each day from work-related disease and injury. In 1993, the National Safety Council estimated that approxiamently $112 billion is wasted on medical costs and lost wages (NIOSH). A lack of fitness leads to many of these problems in the area of health and occupational health. In 1996, the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity indicated that more than sixty percent of adults do not achieve the recommended amount of physical activity (Wicker). The Department of Labor Statistics calculated that over forty-three percent of occupational injuries or illnesses are caused by overexertion(BLS). In 1985, General Motors estimated that health care costs accounted for $400 of the price of every car that they produced (Quick 5). These health care costs often come from early deaths of employees which is a heavy blow to companies. Xerox in 1978 estimated the cost of losing an executive at age forty-one as $600,000 to $1,000,000 (Pelletier 5). These losses drag down the productivity of an organization tremendously. Nineteen years later, it can be inferred that this estimate has increased a great deal just with inflation. It is evident everywhere that lack of physical health is a burden that is dragging down the United States' work force.
Companies that have incorporated health promotion into their workers' lives have found their investments to be very beneficial and have saved many dollars. The New York Telephone Company saved at least $2.7 million annually from a wellness program (Quick 5). A University of Leningrad study found that workers in fitness programs were less prone to industrial accidents and that absenteeism was reduced three to five days per person (Pelletier 37). The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 helped establish the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Its role has been to investigate potentially hazardous working conditions as requested by employers or employees. The institute has created methods for preventing disease and made recommendations for protecting workers (NIOSH). The NIOSH has headquarters in every state. Many private organizations have been created to help other businesses with health needs. One such company, Alexian Brothers Occupational Health Clinics, services almost 1,500 businesses. They claim to reduce worker's compensation claims, manage worker-injury costs, increase workers productivity, improve safety, develop a more healthy work force, and educate employees through wellness programs (Alexian). The four reasons for the establishment of health and fitness programs given in Work Stress are to improve human relations through improving morale, engender greater commitment to the organization, improve productivity, lower health care costs, and improve the company image in the community (Quick 201).
The term health is often associated with someone or something that is not ill or hospitalized, but it is much more than that. Health is defined as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"(Cooper 133). In the area of health promotion a term that appears often is occupational health. Occupational health refers to the health of employees and the safety of working conditions in the organization. Occupational health is defined as "the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental, and social well-being of workers in all occupations by preventing departures from health, controlling risks and the adaptation of work to people, and people to their jobs" (Edinburgh). The operation of the body and its appearance are important parts of physical health. Physical health is defined as "fitness, diet, disease, injury, medication, and lifting" (Cooper 8). Fitness is generally associated with exercise and a person's athletic ability. Fitness defined by the American Medical Association is "endurance, strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility" (AMA). Better Training for Distance Runners gives a similar definition of fitness: "efficient cardiovascular and fuel-metabolizing systems, adequate joint flexibility, and an acceptable body composition" (Coe 254).
The following are several terms involving labor given by Career Resources. Terms involving labor help clarify the difference between those working and not working when making statements about the American work force. Labor force is "the sum of all civilians classified as employed and unemployed and members of the Armed Forces stationed in the United States". This means everyone who has a job or is looking for one is included in the labor force, not just those who are working currently. An occupation is "a group of similar jobs found in different industries or organizations". A job "is a paid position". Employed are "people who work for pay or profit; who hold jobs or are temporarily absent from them; or who work without pay in a family owned business for fifteen or more hours a week". The definitions of job and employed help distinguish that volunteers are out of the labor force. People out of the labor force also include "people who are enrolled in school, have family care responsibilities, and people who are disabled or retired". Unemployed are those "who are currently looking for work"(CR).
A health promotion program must be able to measure goals. One of the major goals of an organization is an increase in productivity. An increase in productivity usually leads to a gain in profits. The definition of productivity can be stated in many different ways. "Outputs divided by inputs, results achieved divided by resources consumed, effectiveness divided by efficiency, and number of hours it takes to produce something" are all definitions of productivity given by the Queensland Department of Education Virtual Library (Queensland).
An illness or injury can sometimes lead to a disability that causes an employee to be unfit for work. The Social Security Handbook gives the following definition of disability: "the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental health impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months; a person must not only be unable to do his or her previous work but cannot, considering age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy; it is immaterial whether such work exists in the immediate area, or whether a specific job vacancy exists, or whether the worker would be hired if he or she applied for work" (Section 507).
The Surgeon General's report on physical activity and health contains many principles of health and exercise. It is stated that people, no matter their age or sex, will benefit from regular physical activity. The Surgeon General writes that exercise will not only benefit muscles, but also will improve mental health. It is reported that increasing the intensity or duration of physical activity will increase health benefits, but even moderate doses of exercise will lead to lower mortality rates compared to those who do not exercise. Finally the most important thing for major companies is that physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality (SG). As discussed before in this paper, the death of an executive at an early age is a huge financial loss.
The principles of good health are written by several different philosophers. Hippocrates wrote, "Persons who are naturally very fat apt to die earlier than those who are slender"(Alder). This is true today, but with the benefits of exercise and proper nutrition obesity can be eliminated in the workplace to prevent early death among employees. Benajamen Disraeli, the Earl of Baconsfield, wrote, "The health of the people is really the foundation which all their happiness and all their power as a state depend"(Bartlett 420). This statement shows the importance of health to a society. It has been proven that exercise improves one's mental health. A society that is healthy will have fewer cases of depression and therefore will likely make better decisions and be more productive. Ruyard Kipling wrote, "More men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies"(Bartlett 786). Many Americans are unfit to handle the stresses of the working environment. They cannot meet the demands that their employers give them. Unfortunately the pressure of working leads to many cases of depression, disabilities, and even early death.
Alder, Mortimer, ed. Great Books of the Western World. Hippocratic Writing. 10. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952.
Alexian Brothers. "Alexian Brothers Occupational Health Clinics." http://www.alexian.org/onthejob/. 9 December 1997.
American Medical Association. "Planning Your Program." http://www.ama- assn.org/insight/gen_hlth/fitness/fitnes2.htm#intro. 30 November 1997.
Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing, 1944.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Percent distribution of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work by selected injury or illness characteristics and industry division, 1995." http://stats.bls.gov/news.release.osh2.t05.htm. 6 December 1997.
Career Resources. "Career Planning Concepts and Definitions." http://www.allworks.org/def.html. 9 December 1997.
Coe, Peter. Better Training For Distance Runners. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics, 1997.
Cooper, Cary. Creating Health Work Organizations. Chichester, England: J. Wiley and Sons, 1994.
Edinburgh. "What is Occupational Health." http://www.med.ed.ac.uk/hew/work/ohsilo.html. 6 December 1997.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. "NIOSH Homepage." http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html. 9 December 1997.
Pelletier, Kenneth. Healthy People in Unhealthy Places. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1984.
Queensland Department of Education Virtual Library. "Productivity Measures." http://coorcoomba.client.uq.edu.au/PRODMEAS.HTML. 9 December 1997.
Quick, James. Work Stress, Health Care Systems in the Workplace. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1987.
Section 507. "Definition of disability for disabled worker's benefits." http://www.ssa.gov/handbook/handbook.05/hbk-507.htm. 14 December 1997.
Surgeon General. "Surgeon General on Physical Activity." http://hermes.ecn.purdue.edu:8001/Links/fnspec_mg/2131.htm. 14 December 1997.
Wicker, Rodger. "May is Physical Fitness and Sports Month." http://rs9.loc.gov/cgi- bin/query/D?r105:43:/temp/~r105WctW::. 7 December 1997.