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Theme: Healthy People, Healthy Environments
Healthcare professionals throughout the developed world report higher levels of sickness absence, dissatisfaction, distress, and “burnout” at work in comparison to staff who work in other employment sectors. Despite concerted policy and research efforts in the last decade designed to support and improve their health and wellbeing, sickness absence of UK healthcare deliverers remains high.
Interventions to improve healthcare staff health and wellbeing have primarily focused on supporting or improving individual coping skills, however the Boorman review (research commissioned by the UK Department of Health) highlighted the potential preventative benefits of targeting the workplace at a system-level (including organisational, cultural, social, physical aspects) in creating sustainable and effective health and wellbeing interventions.
In this systematic review, we sought to identify healthy workplace interventions in health care settings which used elements of this system-level approach, and to determine whether they improve the health and wellbeing and promote healthier behaviours in healthcare staff.
A comprehensive and systematic search of medical, education, exercise science, and social science databases was undertaken. Studies were included if they reported the results of interventions that included all healthcare staff within a healthcare setting (e.g. whole hospital; whole unit, e.g. ward) in collective activities to improve physical or mental health or promote healthy behaviours.
Eleven studies were identified which incorporated at least one of the whole-system recommendations. All studies were deemed by their authors to be at least partly effective. Two studies reported statistically significant improvement in objectively measured physical health (BMI) and eight in subjective mental health. Six studies reported statistically significant positive changes in subjectively assessed health behaviours.
This systematic review identified 11 studies which incorporate at least one of the Boorman recommendations and provides evidence that whole-system healthy workplace interventions can improve health and wellbeing and promote healthier behaviours in healthcare staff.
Despite extensive and systematic searching of the literature, we were only able to identify eleven studies that met our inclusion criteria. The low number of identified studies highlights that there is currently limited evidence regarding the effectiveness of whole-system approaches to enable staff health and wellbeing for healthcare professionals in healthcare settings, as recommended by Boorman. Ten out of eleven included studies provide evidence that whole-system approaches to healthcare workplace health interventions improve physical and/or mental health and promote positive health behaviours in healthcare staff. This suggests that this is an area of potentially fruitful inquiry.