Linnan honored with paper of the year award for research on workplace health in America

January 23, 2020

Laura Linnan

Dr. Laura Linnan

Laura Linnan, ScD, senior associate dean of academic affairs and professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is first author on a paper that has been chosen by the American Journal of Health Promotion (AJHP) as the Editor-in-Chief Paper of the Year for 2019 and one of nine on the “Best of 2019 List.”

The paper, titled “Results of the Workplace Health in America Survey,” was originally published in April of 2019.

The papers are selected according to criteria that include well-executed research, clear and engaging writing, timeliness, and a high rate of citations and downloads. In addition, this award honors researchers who bring “outstanding humanity to their field of inquiry and bigheartedness to their writing,” according to the AJHP’s Editor-in-Chief Paul E. Terry, PhD.

The writing team for this paper consists of collaborators Laurie Cluff and Michael Penne of Research Triangle International (RTI), Jason Lang of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Maija Leff, program manager at Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work and Health and adjunct instructor in the Gillings School’s Total Worker Health (TWH) certificate program.

The paper summarized key results from the 2017 Workplace Health in America Survey, which is a national employer survey collaboratively conducted by the Gillings School, RTI and the CDC. This survey documented the prevalence of worksite-based safety and health promotion programs in a nationally representative sample of employers by size, business sector and geographic location. The survey also gathered information on how workplace health and safety programs are administered; the extent to which evidence-based workplace health promotion (WHP) programs, policies and practices are used; types of incentives in place; and a host of additional information useful to employers, policymakers and practitioners.

Selected results revealed that while employers reported an increase in a number of WHP programs, the overall prevalence is below 30% for most types of health topics.  Fewer than 1 in 5 workplaces offered comprehensive programs that are most likely to yield beneficial health impacts for employees. Small businesses are less likely to offer any type of program, policy or support for health and safety – a concerning finding that has persisted for at least three decades of national surveys.

The study identified challenges – such as cost, implementation strategy, program management and employee participation – which must be overcome to increase the prevalence of effective programs, policies and supports for worker and workplace health, safety and well-being. The insights and benchmarking data defined in the survey could help with ongoing monitoring of WHP programs in order to address gaps in research and improve efforts to increase the prevalence of these programs in U.S. workplaces.

Dr. Linnan reflected on the news of this award by saying, “I am pleased that our team has produced a manuscript that is useful to employers and decision-makers at the local, state and national level. With the excellent partnership between UNC, RTI and the CDC, the data we reported on is now available for public use, and the dashboards will allow people to compare their workplaces with others by size and business sector. We are hopeful that, in having direct access to this data, important improvements in the prevalence and effectiveness of workplace safety and health programs will follow.  We are grateful to the AJHP for this award and the work they have done to promote the national survey results.”

“This year’s winners addressed timely and vital issues relating to improving physical activity, mental and emotional health, community and organizational influences on well-being and the role of psychological and emotional resiliency,” said Terry. “When you read these award-winning authors’ discussion sections, you will see how they applied what they learned to continuous improvement for our discipline, to enlarging our field’s reach and to producing a more equitable world. […] These leaders show us how fastidious study methods and accessible scientific writing can be intentionally aligned with compassionate advocacy for health and well-being for all.”

A detailed review of Dr. Linnan’s paper will be included Terry’s editorial in the February issue of the AJHP.


Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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