Background: Low participation in health promotion programs (HPPs) might hamper their effectiveness. A potential reason for low participation is disagreement between needs and preferences of potential participants and the actual HPPs offered. This study aimed to investigate employees' need and preferences for HPPs, whether these are matched by what their employers provide, and whether a higher agreement enhanced participation. Methods: Employees of two organizations participated in a six-month follow-up study (n = 738). At baseline, information was collected on employees' needs and preferences for the topic of the HPP (i.e. physical activity, healthy nutrition, smoking cessation, stress management, general health), whether they favored a HPP via their employer or at their own discretion, and their preferred HPP regarding three components with each two alternatives: mode of delivery (individual vs. group), intensity (single vs. multiple meetings), and content (assignments vs. information). Participation in HPPs was assessed at six-month follow-up. In consultation with occupational health managers (n = 2), information was gathered on the HPPs the employers provided. The level of agreement between preferred and provided HPPs was calculated (range: 0-1) and its influence on participation was studied using logistic regression analyses. Results: Most employees reported needing a HPP addressing physical activity (55%) and most employees preferred HPPs organized via their employer. The mean level of agreement between the preferred and offered HPPs ranged from 0.71 for mode of delivery to 0.84 for intensity, and was 0.47 for all three HPP components within a topic combined. Employees with a higher agreement on mode of delivery (OR: 1.72, 95% CI: 0.87-3.39) and all HPP components combined (OR: 2.36, 95% CI: 0.68-8.17) seemed to be more likely to participate in HPPs, but due to low participation these associations were not statistically significant. Conclusion: HPPs aimed at physical activity were most needed by employees. The majority of employees favor HPPs organized via the employer above those at their own discretion, supporting the provision of HPPs at the workplace. This study provides some indications that a higher agreement between employees' needs and preferences and HPPs made available by their employers will enhance participation.

, , , ,,
BMC Public Health
Department of Public Health

Rongen, A., Robroek, S., van Ginkel, W., Lindeboom, D., Pet, M., & Burdorf, A. (2014). How needs and preferences of employees influence participation in health promotion programs: A six-month follow-up study. BMC Public Health, 14(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-1277