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Low–Socioeconomic Status Workers: Their Health Risks and How to Reach Them

Harris, Jeffrey R. MD, MPH, MBA; Huang, Yi MPH; Hannon, Peggy A. PhD, MPH; Williams, Barbara PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 2 - p 132–138
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182045f2c
Original Articles

Objective: To help workplace health promotion practitioners reach low–socioeconomic status workers at high risk for chronic diseases.

Methods: We describe low–socioeconomic status workers’ diseases, health status, demographics, risk behaviors, and workplaces, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Results: Workers with household annual incomes less than $35,000, or a high school education or less, report more chronic diseases and lower health status. They tend to be younger, nonwhite, and have much higher levels of smoking and missed cholesterol screening. They are concentrated in the smallest and largest workplaces and in three low-wage industries that employ one-quarter of the population.

Conclusions: To decrease chronic diseases among low–socioeconomic status workers, we need to focus workplace health promotion programs on workers in low-wage industries and small workplaces.

From the Health Promotion Research Center (Drs Harris, Hannon, and Williams), Department of Health Services, and Epidemiology Department (Ms Huang), School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.

Jeffrey R. Harris, MD, MPH, MBA, Health Promotion Research Center, Department of Health Services, School of Public Health, University of Washington, 1107 NE 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98105; E-mail:

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine