Bringing together the national story of the Healthy Worker Initiatives

Project title: Workplace Health Insights: Cross-jurisdictional analysis of Healthy Worker Initiatives

This project is finished. Click on the image to read the Findings Brief.

What is the issue?

Chronic disease is a growing problem in Australia. Many chronic disease risk factors are modifiable and can be prevented through changes to diet and physical activity, reduced alcohol consumption and stopping smoking. There is significant evidence that workplace health and wellbeing programs can be influential in modifying chronic disease risk factors. These programs have been shown to increase worker productivity, improve morale, reduce absenteeism reduce staff turnover, and make their organisations more attractive to prospective employees.

It is important to learn from what has worked and why in workplace health and wellbeing programs, and in chronic disease prevention programs more broadly, to better direct future investment and prioritise interventions.

How did the project address the issue?

As part of the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (NPAPH – agreed to by the Commonwealth Government and States and Territories in 2008), the Commonwealth Government funded the Healthy Worker Initiative, which supported implementation of healthy lifestyle programs in workplaces across Australia.

While the NPAPH has now ceased, the Healthy Worker Initiative has been implemented in all States and Territories. Each jurisdiction took a different approach to the Healthy Worker Initiative, but there were common threads between programs, and some jurisdictions collaborated and ensured their approaches were similar.

Implementation of the Healthy Worker Initiative across jurisdictions therefore provided a unique opportunity to gain insights into what worked and why in chronic disease prevention in a workplace setting.The Prevention Centre worked with State and Territory Health Departments to look at the Healthy Worker Initiatives that were implemented with funding from the NPAPH.

Also, the Initiative and the NPAPH more generally were innovative steps for federal and state governments to work in partnership with businesses. The Prevention Centre believed it was important to showcase the impact of this model of chronic disease prevention.

This project aimed to further our understanding of how different jurisdictions across Australia implemented healthy workplace programs through the NPAPH, and the lessons learnt from the experiences and observations of Healthy Worker Initiative program managers.

What were the outcomes?

The project provided insights on program development and evaluation strategies of Healthy Workers Initiatives across Australia, and shed light on how they were implemented. By identifying the factors that helped or hindered programs, the findings can help policy makers develop and implement future programs to achieve meaningful and sustainable change.

Relevance for practice

The pooled information provided insights on program development and evaluation strategies of Healthy Worker Initiatives across Australia, and showcased the impacts of these initiatives on implementation. The findings from this project may help policy makers to expand and promote their current workplace health promotion programs, or to improve future programs.


Project start date: March 2015

End date: June 2016


Dr Anne Grunseit from the Rapid Response Evaluation Capacity, together with Prevention Centre Deputy Director Associate Professor Sonia Wutzke, Research Fellow Dr Samantha Rowbotham, Dr Melanie Crane, and Dr Melanie Pescud from the Centre’s project, A systems approach to healthy and equitable eating, worked with representatives from each State and Territory on this project.

This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.


NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Government Health, HCF Research Foundation, ACT Government Health, hosted by Sax Institute

This project has now been completed. The final outcomes are listed below.

Innovative evaluation methodologies and advice on evaluations

  • Provided a cross-jurisdictional forum in which jurisdictions could discuss and learn from one another about how they went about developing and evaluating their programs from the HWI
  • Used cross-jurisdictional forum to generate research questions with appropriate methodology that are practitioner driven
  • Collated Healthy Worker Initiative evaluation datasets from all jurisdictions to examine the feasibility of conducting an overall analysis


  • Undertook a qualitative study to examine the state-level processes, experiences and logics underpinning development of state HWI programs

Capacity building

  • Increased knowledge and experience with qualitative methods of Prevention Centre researchers
  • Provided interviewing training to Prevention Centre researcher
  • Collaborated across four Prevention Centre capacities/research partners to generate peer review publication enhancing expertise exchange


  • Grunseit AC, Rowbotham S, Pescud M, Indig D, Wutzke S. Beyond fun runs and fruit bowls: an evaluation of the meso-level processes that shaped the Australian Healthy Workers Initiative. Health Promot J Austr 2016 doi: 10.1071/HE16049