The Role of Dietitians and other Allied Health Professionals in the Health and Work Agenda

08 Jul 2022

Good work - a safe and secure job with good working hours and conditions, supportive management and opportunities for training and development – has a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

A new digital resource from the Royal Society of Public Health, based on feedback from more than 1000 Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) has been launched today. It aims to support all AHPs like dietitians, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to make the most of the opportunities they have to support people to be healthy in and through work, and to encourage employers, funders and commissioners to fully harness the skills which AHPs have to further the health and work agenda.

Findings from AHPs

The report reviews the ways AHPs would like to support the health and work agenda including leading health promotion campaigns, delivering staff wellbeing initiatives for colleagues and providing training to HR/occupational health colleagues on their areas of specialism.

AHPs surveyed saw the NHS as an ‘anchor institution’ meaning it has a powerful influence on the wider determinants of health in a community is as an employer. However, respondents identified barriers to being involved in this agenda, with more training to build competence and confidence high on the list.

The Work Ready licenses that our NHS partners in five Trusts across the UK have held are an example of how AHPs can bring this concept into action in their own workplaces, and dietitians from the NHS and private practice can access the initial training here to get started on their workplace health promotion journey.

Illness, health outcomes and productivity at work

AHPs are supporting the ‘health and work agenda’ at universal, targeted, and specialist levels, and the report identifies specific areas where their skills can be used. For example, our Work Ready dietitians provide targeted health promotion and wellbeing services within workplaces.

Nearly one third (31%) of working-age people in the UK have a long-term health condition – and 40% of these say that their condition affects their work. Supporting people with health conditions to access and remain in good work, minimising the health-risks of work, and promoting health through work is not only beneficial to individuals’ health but has wide-ranging outcomes in terms of savings to businesses, to healthcare services, and to the economy as a whole.

The report also collates case studies and signposts to further reading on specific areas such as:

Depression and musculoskeletal diseases, as well as lifestyle factors, like an unbalanced diet and physical inactivity, are associated with reduced on-the-job productivity.

As the population of the UK ages, there will be an increase in the number of people with one or multiple long-term conditions and limiting long-term conditions. It also means that people are likely to be working for longer, with over 9 million people aged 50 to 64 in the UK who are employed.

There is a strong business case, therefore, for employers, managers, as well as policymakers to consider how they can improve the health of their workforce, and how they can support the employment of people with health conditions and disabilities.

Using the report in your practice

The report uses case studies to bring tested interventions and strategies to life, including a specific focus on nutrition and a Work Ready case study from the BDA’s work with employees at University College London.

Access the report microsite now

This important resource, funded by the Welsh Government on behalf of the UK AHP Public Health Strategy Board can be used by all AHPs to create opportunities to make work better for health, and to support people with health conditions and disabilities to find employment (where this would be beneficial for their wellbeing, recovery or rehabilitation).

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If you're looking for ways to improve your workforces nutritional health get in touch with us below.