September 2006

Grant Results

SUMMARY

From July 2002 to July 2005, staff from the City of New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the United Nations (UN) Medical Services Division collaborated to develop a worksite health promotion program, with a particular focus on smoking cessation, for employees at UN headquarters.

Key Results

  • Health department staff completed a Wellness Resource Center Web site to provide information about, and encourage participation in, the newly created wellness program.
  • Health department and UN staff worked together to run two four-month "wellness challenges" for UN employees in New York. More than 1,000 people participated in at least one component of the first challenge; about 200 participated in at least one component of the second challenge. The components of the challenges included:
    • Health screenings (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and body mass index).
    • A healthy eating plan to improve eating habits.
    • A physical activity program.
    • A tobacco cessation program.
    In addition, project staff offered informal health education workshops at lunchtime.
  • United Nations staff implemented environmental changes at headquarters, including:
    • A workplace policy that bans smoking except in designated areas.
    • Glass walls that partition a smoking area in an on-site dining facility.
    • Centrally located bulletin boards that provide information about wellness initiative programs.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a grant of $377,757 for this solicited project.

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THE PROBLEM

In 1995, New York City passed the Smoke-Free Air Act, putting it on the forefront of municipalities protecting their citizens from the dangers of secondhand smoke in the workplace. However, the United Nations (UN), one of the city's largest employers, is exempt from local laws due to its international status.

The UN already had several programs in place to ensure the health of the approximately 10,000 employees working at its headquarters and, in theory, had a smoke-free policy in the building. However, the persistently poor enforcement of smoking restrictions presented a health risk to nonsmokers, and it did not support smokers attempting to quit, according to the project director.

The City of New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene fulfills its mandate to improve the health of New Yorkers in part by developing wellness programs in the workplace that promote nonsmoking behaviors and support healthy lifestyles.

A partnership between the UN and the Department of Health offered an opportunity to test such a program in a very large and diverse worker population with a high percentage of smokers.

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RWJF STRATEGY

Smoking remains among the most pressing threats to America's health. RWJF has been committed to reducing the use of tobacco, with an emphasis on advancing and sustaining policy changes that have been shown to prevent and reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke and to help addicted smokers quit.

Several important policy changes have helped to reduce tobacco use, including increased taxes on tobacco products in a majority of states, a growing number of states and cities becoming "smoke-free" and increased access to treatment for tobacco dependence.

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THE PROJECT

Under this grant, staff at the City of New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the UN Medical Services Division collaborated to develop a worksite health promotion program, focused especially on smoking cessation, for employees at UN headquarters. To accomplish this, they:

  • Built senior-level support at the UN.
  • Established a wellness committee to oversee the project. The committee included representatives from relevant UN departments, including those who handle medical services, human resources and other staffing issues, and from a number of UN agencies, including UNICEF.
  • Distributed an Internet-based health needs assessment survey to more than 8,000 employees at UN headquarters; approximately 10 percent of them completed the survey. Staff reported the results to the wellness committee and the UN's Office of Human Resources Management.
  • Created an operating plan that drew on the needs assessment survey and outlined the rationale and implementation for proposed health interventions.
  • Conducted a pilot screening, measuring blood pressure and body mass index, with 53 UN employees.

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RESULTS

The project yielded the following results:

  • New York City Department pf Health and Mental Hygiene staff completed a Wellness Resource Center Web site, which had been under development for its worksite wellness programs at the time of the grant.

    The site allowed UN headquarters' employees to:
    • Enroll in wellness programs.
    • Learn about upcoming workshops and activities.
    • Access health education information online.
    The site allowed staff at the Health Department to:
    • Collect participant data.
    • Track the progress of participants.
    • Send automated e-mails to wellness program participants to motivate them to achieve their wellness goals.
  • With technical assistance from staff at the health department, UN staff ran two four-month "wellness challenges" for UN employees in New York. More than 1,000 people (about 10 percent of staff at UN headquarters) participated in at least one component of the first challenge, held in late 2003. About 200 people participated in at least one component of the second challenge, held in early 2004.

    The challenges included the following components:
    • Know Your Numbers: Health screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index. The second wellness challenge added diabetes screening.
    • Healthy Eating Plan: A program to improve eating habits by educating participants about nutrition and helping them set personal goals.
    • Move for Life: A program that encourages physical activity through goal setting.
    • On-site smoking cessation: The program consisted of:
      • A one-hour intake assessment with a physician and registered nurse.
      • Free nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine patches).
      • Telephone counseling.
      • On-site group counseling sessions and two follow-up appointments.
    Of the 114 people enrolled in the smoking cessation program:
    • Fifty-three (46.5 percent) showed immediate success (no smoking for one week after the end of the program and a negative reading on a carbon monoxide breath test administered to find evidence of smoking).
    • Four (3.5 percent) showed long-term success (no smoking at six months to one year after the program ended and a negative carbon monoxide reading).
  • In addition to these formalized programs, 585 people attended 25 lunch-hour health education workshops, held twice a week.

  • UN staff made environmental changes at UN headquarters, including:
    • A workplace policy that bans smoking except in designated areas.
    • Glass walls that partition a smoking area in an on-site dining facility.
    • Centrally located bulletin boards that describe the wellness initiative programs and provide health education information and a calendar of upcoming activities.
    • A three-week pilot in which UN dining staff placed paper placemats and table tents with healthy nutrition messages in the UN's dining facilities.

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LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Find a champion to promote your program within participating organizations. Staff in the Health Department found a strong advocate for the project in Serguei Oleinikov, M.D., the UN's senior medical officer. Despite tightened security after the events of September 11, 2001, Oleinikov's influence helped make it possible for project staff to work in UN headquarters with relative freedom. (Project Director)

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AFTER THE GRANT

UN Medical Services Division staff members continue to offer smoking cessation programs and health screenings to employees. Limited resources have prevented them from providing additional health promotion services. Project staff hopes that some UN employees may return to their home countries with new thinking about smoking cessation, although there are no plans to measure this.

UN staff continues to submit quarterly reports to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on the numbers of employees who have tried to quit smoking and their success rates. In exchange for these reports, which are added to citywide data, the department provides free nicotine patches.

As of June 2006, the health department was using the Wellness Resource Center Web site with 16 other large employers in New York as part of its broader initiatives to encourage healthy behaviors through changes in the workplace.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Developing a Work Site Wellness Program to Reduce Tobacco Use in New York City

Grantee

City of New York Department of Health (New York,  NY)

  • Amount: $ 377,757
    Dates: July 2002 to June 2005
    ID#:  044435

Contact

Daria Luisi, Ph.D., M.P.H.
(212) 676-2178
dluisi@health.nyc.gov

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Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Michelle A. Larkin

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