A step in the right direction: Chief Medical Officers collaborate to improve employee health and wellbeing

26 September 2017 .
  • Chief Medical Officers from businesses around the world developed a four-week health challenge
  • More than half of the participants increased their physical activity as a result of the pilot
  • Findings show simple health challenges can positively impact employees

Almost 1,900 employees in nine countries have benefited from a four-week health challenge developed by the Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) Network, powered by Bupa, with more than half increasing their physical activity as a result of the pilot.

The ‘On Our Way Challenge’ – a first for the global CMO Network – used cross-company collaboration to promote fitness and physical activity. Lessons and results from the challenge are now being utilised to better understand and address the health challenges facing today’s working population.

The challenge was a flexible initiative where participants were encouraged to increase their level of physical activity during a four-week period. They logged all their steps, some using digital apps linked to GPS. Some companies offered participants money for charities and prizes as an incentive.

The 1,890 participants came from a variety of workforces, including flight crew in Dubai, miners in South Africa, care home assistants in New Zealand and office workers in the UK. The challenge was moulded to support all fitness levels and lifestyles.

Businesses who participated in the pilot are members of the global CMO Network,  including Emirates, Independence Blue Cross, Anglo American and Sibanye-Stillwater, two mining companies, Emis Group, a healthcare technology company, The Abraaj Group, a leading investor in growth markets, and Bupa

Findings from the challenge showed immediate changes in behaviour, with more than half of participants significantly increasing their levels of physical activity, from an average of three days of activity per week to five. One of the biggest changes was seen at Emirates, where the percentage of people exercising at least five days a week increased by 64%.

Dr. Richard Jenkins, Vice President, Medical Services at Emirates, said: “We opened the health challenge to our entire workforce – from baggage handlers to pilots, with a cap of 1,000 employees. We wanted to test whether a workplace health programme with no financial incentives, but peer support and access to gyms and yoga classes, would encourage people to exercise more, as we know this can have a significant impact in the longer-term, beyond the programme.”

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, Chief Medical Officer at Bupa, credits the success of changing participants’ habits to the simplicity and inclusivity of the programme. He said: “The team spirit and peer-to-peer support encouraged by the challenge’s design was also key to keeping people motivated.

“The test of this initiative was to see if a simple health programme could impact people’s health in a short period of time, and it did. It also showed how a challenge like this can make health an enjoyable experience – 97% of the people who took part said they would like to do the challenge again in future. With only 10% of companies globally doing initiatives like these, there is certainly room for businesses to do more.”

The CMO Network is now using findings from the challenge to better understand workplace health and assist businesses globally to implement programmes which support the wellbeing of their employees. It is now turning its focus to mental health with the potential for more challenges in the future.

Notes to editor

For further information please contact:

Aaron Bains, Senior Press Officer, Bupa 
T: +44 (0)20 7656 2892 E: aaron.bains@bupa.com

The CMO Network

The global Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) Network is a group of over 50 world-leading clinicians, powered by Bupa, which is committed to bringing about a lasting improvement to people’s health.

Together, they can leverage their combined insight, experience and global reach to solve some of the world’s biggest health problems through workplace health initiatives.

The network comprises Chief Medical Officers from some of the world’s most innovative businesses who have collective responsibility of a workforce of over eight million people.

For further information read the previous CMO Network reports.

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

Health insurance accounts for the major part of our business with 15.7m customers and contributes over 70% of revenue. We operate clinics, dental centres and hospitals in some markets, with 15m customers. We care for around 23,000 residents in our UK, Australia, New Zealand and Spain aged care businesses.

We directly employ around 80,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Turkey, the US, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.