Australia ahead on health and productivity management

By Angela Dorizas

Australian governments have shown real leadership on workplace health and wellbeing, according to Sean Sullivan, president and chief executive of the US-based Institute for Health and Productivity Management.

In an address to the Australian Health and Productivity Management Congress in Melbourne this week, Mr Sullivan praised governments in Australia for grasping the importance of health and productivity management.

“The idea is no where as sharply focused nor widely adopted than it is right here in Australia,” he said.

“I commend what is happening here.”

Mr Sullivan singled out the Victorian Government and its WorkHealth initiative as a leader in the corporate health and wellness sector. The program was designed by WorkSafe Victoria to improve the health and wellbing of all Victorian workers and includes voluntary and confidential health checks.

“I’m really impressed with what is going on in the state of Victoria,” Mr Sullivan said.

“WorkHealth is an amazing example from the public sector.”

Mr Sullivan said the challenge for employers and occupational health and safety professionals was to look beyond ‘safety’ and instead focus on enhancing and protecting the wellbeing of employees.

“Safety is not the biggest issue anymore,” he told Government News.

“The biggest challenge is getting employers to see that employees are their human capital and the health of the human capital is just as important as the knowledge or technology base.

“They know what they need to have to run a successful enterprise, but health has not yet made it into that category.”

Australia’s efforts in workplace health and wellness were also praised by Dr Toby Ford, president of the Health and Productivity Institute of Australia (HAPIA).

“In Australia we’re doing health and wellness really well,” Dr Ford told congress delegates.

He said health and wellbeing was “the single greatest legacy an employer can give an employee”.

However, he argued for a voluntary, not statutory, approach to health and productivity management. Empowering the individual to take control of their health and wellbeing is the “winning ticket”, he said.

“Ownership of health destiny is really the vital part of what we’re doing here.

“We should motivate people and encourage them to participate.”

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