Health Promotion: Workplace Health Screening

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes mellitus (DM), and colorectal cancer (CRC) are all significant health concerns facing us today (Anonymous, 2005; Bagai, Parsons, Malone, Fantino, Paszat, & Rabeneck, 2007; de Koning, 2009; Korhonen, Jaatinen, Aarnio, Kantola, & Saaresranta, 2008; Matthews, Nattinger, Venkatesan, & Shaker, 2007). In the U.S., CRC is estimated to kill 56,000 people per year, while, in the U.K., the numbers are around 16,000. (Anonymous, 2005). CVD is on the decline but is expected to continue to have a global impact, taking off the most years of life, and DM creates a 4-fold increase of dying from CVD (de Koenig, 2009).

Through efforts at targeting healthy lifestyle changes, the mortality of these diseases has decreased over the past few years, but the numbers remain high, and studies suggest that identifying those people with risk factors or early signs of disease helps to both treat for the disease effectively and decrease the overall incidence (Anonymous, 2005; Bagai et al., 2007; de Koning, 2009; Matthews et al., 2007).

As Bagai et al. (2007) point out, health promotion activities focused on screening are notably scarce within the workplace. Researchers, Hamashima and Yoshida, have shown that early detection of CRC is effective at decreasing overall morbidity (as cited in Bagai et al., 2009). Bagai et al. attempted to apply this reasoning within the confines of a typical Canadian work environment by introducing CRC screening to the men and women of the Toronto police force. With workplace screening programs being limited in Canada, Bagai et al. hoped to show the effectiveness of these screening programs, and they were successful, but unfortunately, the participation in the study was limited.

Another study (Matthews et al., 2007) aims at increasing CRC screening among the residents of the Midwestern States in the U.S. The literature seems to suggest that participation in screening procedures is contingent on education and insistence by the physician, specifically.

Not only does this correlate to the thought that the primary care physician has an important role in screening and detecting disease, but in order for workplace screening programs to be successful, the physicians need to make the recommendation that the patient uses the screening programs available to him or her.

Korhonen et al. (2008) used the waist circumference criteria (women: 88 cm; men: 102 cm) set forth by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to assess the effectiveness of at-home screening for CVD and DM risk by using a simple questionnaire and a tape measure. Taking very little time and requiring little expertise, this process could be incorporated with any workplace screening program to increase its efficacy.

Increasing these screening programs, particularly within the workplace, should target the population most at risk to CRC, CVD, and DM. Targeting specific risk groups to educate about these diseases should ultimately lead to a higher survivability, decreased incidence, and lower morbidity rates. More research should be aimed at studying the effects of more targeted workplace health screenings to understand how this tool could be best implemented to provide better screening for CVD, DM, CRC, and, perhaps, other pathological processes.


Anonymous. (2005). Colorectal cancer: Not an embarrassing problem. Lancet, 366, 521. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67030-4

Bagai, A., Parsons, K., Malone, B., Fantino, J., Paszat, L., & Rabeneck, L. (2007). Workplace colorectal cancer–screening awareness programs: An adjunct to primary care practice? Journal of Community Health, 32(3), 157-167. doi:10.1007/s10900-006-9042-4

Cyranoski, D. & Williams, R. (2005). Health study sets sights on a million people. Nature, 434, 812. doi:10.1038/434812a

de Koning, H. J. (2009). Testing at home—the screening of the future? European Journal of Public Health, 19(1), 5–6. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckn120

Geltman, P. L., & Cochran, J. (2005). A private-sector preferred provider network model for public health screening of newly resettled refugees. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 196-199. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2004.040311

Korhonen, P. E., Jaatinen, P. T., Aarnio, P. T., Kantola, I. M., & Saaresranta, T. (2008). Waist circumference home measurement – a device to find out patients in cardiovascular risk. European Journal of Public Health, 19(1), 95–99. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckn090

Matthews, B. A., Nattinger, A. B., Venkatesan, T., & Shaker, R. (2007). Colorectal cancer screening among Midwestern community-based residents: Indicators of success. Journal of Community Health, 32(2), 103-120. doi:10.1007/s10900-006-9038-0

Smith, G. D., Ebrahim, S., Lewis, S., Hansell, A. L., Palmer, L. J., & Burton, P. R. (2005). Genetic epidemiology 7: Genetic epidemiology and public health: Hope, hype, and future prospects. Lancet, 366, 1484-1498. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67601-5