Spotlight on article published in

American Journal of Preventive Medicine

IBI Spotlights call attention to important health and productivity findings from peer-reviewed work by external researchers. Unless otherwise stated, the authors are not affiliated with IBI, nor was the research executed on IBI’s behalf. IBI members are encouraged to obtain the original articles from the copyright holder.

What is the Issue?

Existing studies of workplace health promotion programs (WHPPs) have found small effects, and reviews of these studies rarely provide information on how the study population, the content of the interventions, or the quality of the studies impact the reported outcomes.

What are the findings/solutions?

Studies report stronger effects of interventions when they focus on white collar and younger employees. Interventions appear more effective when they include contact with employees at least on a weekly basis. Poorer-quality studies tend to report stronger effects of interventions than better-quality studies.

Journal Citation

Rongen, A., Robroek, S. J., van Lenthe, F. J., & Burdorf, A. (2013). Workplace Health Promotion: A Meta-Analysis of Effectiveness. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(4), 406-415.


To evaluate the effectiveness of healthy lifestyle-oriented WHPPs (e.g., nutrition, physical activity, weight) on health, workplace absence, and productivity/work ability, and to assess the influence of population and study characteristics.


A meta-analysis of 18 peer-reviewed studies assessed randomized-controlled trials of lifestyle-oriented WHPPs with outcomes focused on health, workplace absence, and productivity/work ability. Twelve studies measured work absence due to illness; six studies measured productivity or work ability. Overall, the quality of the studies averaged between fair and good.


  • Lower-quality studies tended to show a stronger effect of WHPPs than did higher-quality studies. This is particularly true of studies with low participation rates, which may indicate that employees who are ready to improve their health self-select into interventions.
  • Effects were stronger when the studies focused on white collar and younger workers.
  • Effects were stronger when interventions included at least weekly contact with employees. There were no significant differences across studies that did or did not include counseling, exercise, or education components.


The intensity of interventions could impact their effectiveness at improving health-related outcomes. Broader efforts to motivate employees to improve their health may increase interventions’ participation rates and effectiveness.