WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
Q: Could you provide an overview of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) operations in Sri Lanka?
A: For several decades, WHO and the Government of Sri Lanka have cooperated to improve the health and wellbeing of Sri Lankans. WHO has three priority areas: ensuring access to affordable and quality healthcare, protecting people from health emergencies and promoting a healthier population.
We work on a variety of health related issues in Sri Lanka including primary healthcare reform, road safety, health system emergency preparedness and response, noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention and tobacco cessation.
Moreover, WHO contributed to the country’s elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and syphilis, the elimination of measles, the control of rubella, launching Sri Lanka’s Essential Services Package that lists what should be available to all Sri Lankans free of charge, the promotion of mental health services through community based approaches, and the introduction of a traffic light labelling system for packaged food and beverages to combat NCDs.
Q: What is a ‘healthy workplace’ – and what activities comprise this?
A: WHO defines a healthy workplace as one that protects and promotes the health, safety and wellbeing of workers, and the sustainability of the workplace, by considering health and safety concerns in the physical and psychosocial work environments. This includes the organisation of work, workplace culture and personal health resources in the workplace; and ways of participating in the community to improve the health of workers, their families and the community.
Q: How can employees expect to benefit from a healthy workplace?
A: Physical inactivity is a major contributor to NCDs such as heart disease and stroke. Conversely, physical activity is associated with psychological benefits such as a reduction of the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
A healthy diet throughout one’s life helps prevent malnutrition, as well as many NCDs and conditions. People spend a substantial amount of time in the workplace, which has a direct impact on their health.
Individuals in a healthy workplace are more likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle as their environment facilitates and en- courages the process. Furthermore, these individuals are likely to encourage their friends, family and the community to make similar positive changes. A healthier lifestyle will reduce one’s risk of developing NCDs and helps individuals manage preexisting conditions.
Q: What is the Model Health Corner?
A: This initiative is in keeping with WHO’s concept of a settings approach to create a healthy workplace. One element of a healthy workplace is to make facilities available for workers to self-monitor their risk factors for NCDs, and provide access to information on preventing NCDs
and promoting mental health. The Model Health Corner is a space that offers these services to staff.
Q: And what does the Model Health Corner hope to achieve?
A: WHO hopes that this endeavour will encourage our multi-sectoral partners working on NCD prevention in Sri Lanka to take on the concept.
Moreover, we hope that this initiative will be an example of how small changes in an office can have a large impact on the health and wellbeing of staff members.
WHO is happy to offer guidance, assistance and educational material to any organisation that would like to transform their workplace setting.
Q: Could you outline the services that this initiative offers?
A: It covers a range of services including the ability to self-screen for blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and self-measure body compositions that indicate one’s risk of NCDs – such as the BMI, percentage of body fat and share of muscle mass in the body.
Instructions on self-interpreting the results of the measurements and directions for follow-up services will be provided. Moreover, the Health Corner will offer educational materials on maintaining a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, and promoting mental health.
WHO has taken several other steps to support staff wellness including allocating time within work hours for physical activity, adequately equipping the office gymnasium and paying for the use of a badminton court twice a week. In addition, WHO supports three weekly fitness sessions run by a renowned local fitness group.
Furthermore, we are promoting healthy meetings as individuals working in offices often spend a substantial amount of time in them. WHO’s efforts include the development of a video to encourage physical activity during meeting breaks, and a guide to healthy and low calorie snacks that can be served at meetings.
Additionally, WHO adopted a ‘green office’ initiative that will benefit staff at work and in their communities through the placement of indoor plants to emit oxygen throughout the day, and the elimination of single-use plastics in the office. Finally, WHO encourages and facilitates staff to reduce, reuse and recycle.