Niki Ellis | The Integrated Approach – a very slow burn
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The Integrated Approach – a very slow burn

10 Jun 2016, Posted by Professor Niki Ellis in WHS

This week I gave a webinar to the Workplace Health Association of Australia on the integration of OHS and workplace health promotion (WHP). I assumed that the members of this organisation were experts in WHP and would have heard of the ‘integrated approach’ or Total Worker Health as NIOSH call it, but may not know the detail of its theory and practice. This is still emerging of course, and I hope that members of the WHA will start working closely with their OHS colleagues to progress this new model of WHS, which I consider will come to dominate as we recognise a more holistic approach to worker health is needed.

The case study is of an Australian statutory authority who asked the good question, ‘What does being a mentally healthy workplace mean?’  For this work I started with a conceptual model developed by Harvard and presented by Gloria Sorensen at the First International Total Worker Health conference in 2014 in Washington. The slide is in my presentation, but Sorensen’s full presentation and other’s from the conference can be found here http://www.eagleson.org/total-worker-heath. I then adapted the model to the organisation with whom I was working, and for mental wellbeing. As a part of this work I developed an audit tool drawn from the Canadian Standards on psychological injury, Comcare and APSC guideline on wellbeing and an ISCRR report on the evidence base for psychological health in the workplace. This can be found here.

If I had had more time I would have presented a second case study on the work on fatigue in the Emergency Department at Northern Health. This project was undertaken as a part of the WorkHealth Improvement Network set up by Worksafe Victoria. The WIN program is quite complicated. It is working through existing networks, one is VECCI for the manufacturing industry, and the other is the Department of Health’s public hospitals. The idea is that the Network Chairs develop skills in both the integrated approach, and a process improvement methodology based on PDSAs – Plan, Do, Study, Act. These are short, manageable cycles of measurable, achievable improvements. They then recruit and support workplaces to plan, develop and implement interventions based on the integrated approach. Northern Health came up with a winner to tackle the problem of fatigue associated with shift work, especially in female nurses, who with the double shift of family responsibilities were getting very little sleep. Northern Health recognises that this issue would not be adequately addressed by their usual OHS approach, it required a shared responsibility approach. Northern Health has made changes to its approach to shift design and its health workers are recognising that they need to manage their sleep better.

You can access my webinar presentation here.