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Supporting the Health of Low Socioeconomic Status Employees: Qualitative Perspectives From Employees and Large Companies

Parrish, Amanda T., MA; Hammerback, Kristen, MA; Hannon, Peggy A., PhD, MPH; Mason, Caitlin, PhD; Wilkie, Michelle N., BA; Harris, Jeffrey R., MD, MPH, MBA

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: July 2018 - Volume 60 - Issue 7 - p 577–583
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001318

Objective: The aim of this study was to identify alignments between wellness offerings low socioeconomic status (SES) employees need and those large companies can provide.

Methods: Focus groups (employees); telephone interviews (large companies). Employees were low-SES, insured through their employers, and employed by large Washington State companies. Focus groups covered perceived barriers to healthy behaviors at work and potential support from companies. Interviews focused on priorities for employee health and challenges reaching low-SES employees.

Results: Seventy-seven employees participated in eight focus groups; 12 companies completed interviews. Employees identified facilitators and barriers to healthier work environments; companies expressed care for employees, concerns about employee obesity, and reluctance to discuss SES.

Conclusion: Our findings combine low-SES employee and large company perspectives and indicate three ways workplaces could most effectively support low-SES employee health: create healthier workplace food environments; prioritize onsite physical activity facilities; use clearer health communications.

Health Promotion Research Center, a CDC Prevention Research Center, University of Washington, School of Public Health, Department of Health Services, Seattle, Washington (Ms Parrish, Ms Hammerback, Drs Hannon, Mason, Harris), and American Cancer Society, Inc., West Region, Seattle, Washington (Ms Wilkie).

Address correspondence to: Amanda T. Parrish, MA, University of Washington, 1107 NE 45th St., Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98105 (

Funding support for this research was provided by the ACS. This manuscript is a product of a Prevention Research Center supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U48DP005013 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Authors Parrish, Hammerback, Hannon, Mason, Wilkie, and Harris have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2018 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine