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Employers Addressing Substance Use Disorders Save By

Promoting Health and Wellness Among Their Employees

Over the last decade, wellness, fitness and preventive health care have become important parts of many companies' human resource programs. Wellness programs that include information about hazardous alcohol use, along with diet and weight management, fitness and high blood pressure control are quite effective. One program developed by Max Heirich at the University of Michigan, the Wellness Outreach at Work, provides comprehensive health risk-reduction services to all employees at a workplace, using health screening, follow-up and worksite health promotion programs. The program has been used in more than 100 worksites and has reached more than 75,000 employees in organizations ranging in size from 5 to 6,000 blue- and white-collar employees.

Company Internet sites are tremendous resources for educating employees and their families about alcohol and other health problems. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, a government health agency, has created a Web-based educational resource that is free, effective, and can be incorporated into a company's employee Website. Ensuring Solutions, a research project at the Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy, has included this government resource in its Website at:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January 2005, can be a tool to educating employees about moderate use of alcohol. According to the guidelines:

If adults choose to drink, they should have no more that 1-2 drinks a day. Moderation is defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Twelve fluid ounces of regular beer, five fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits count as one drink for purposes of explaining moderation. This definition of moderation is not intended as an average over several days but rather as the amount consumed on any single day.

The guidelines further specify who ought not drink:

Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions. Individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery, should avoid alcoholic beverages.

Companies have worked effectively with interested workers and organized labor to set up health promotion programs that include modules on alcohol problems.  Xerox workers who participated in a wellness program and limited their alcohol consumption enabled the company to reduce its costs for both healthcare and health insurance over four years, achieving a five to one return on investment.1 Ensuring Solutions has worked with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and its district labor-management committees to increase awareness of the impact of harmful and hazardous alcohol use among USPS employees and their families.

Find out how General Motors and the United Auto Workers reduced alcohol problems in their workplace through a health promotion program.

Use these tools and resources to educate workers about substance use disorders

Increasing Awareness

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1. S. Musich, D. Napier and D. W. Edington, “The Association of Health Risks with Worker’s Compensations Costs,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 43, 6, 534-541.