Culture of Health
My colleague Judd Allen and I have a combined 60+ years in the employee health and well-being space. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published our definition of workplace ‘Culture of Health’.
“Webster’s defines ‘culture’ as ‘the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or age group’. These behaviors and beliefs are often the result of a complex web of social influences. Culture, as it pertains to health, is often embedded, and demonstrated in food choices, relationships, sleep patterns, work life balance, safety precautions, and tobacco use. Health culture influences us through formal (ie, workplace policies) and informal (ie, how we spend our lunch break) mechanisms. Cultural influences sometimes run contrary to a profession’s stated goal. Take for example, health care workers who regularly share foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar. Culture can be transmitted through formal training provided by leaders and the informal learning that is passed between peers. Cultures are often composed of multiple subcultures that include unique subsets (ie, profession, work location, shift) of influences within a broader culture. With this understanding of culture, it is fitting for our professional community to define a “Culture of Health” in the workplace to be “a web of social influences that manifests itself in shared health beliefs and behaviors.”
Our framework, based on scientific evidence and decades of experience includes six domains, highlighted in the figure below. You’ll see that these domains overlap. These areas of focus don’t have clear boundaries and most often work synergistically. You can learn how to shape the culture of health in your workplace, and this is a great website to help you get started.