DOI: 10.3390/ijerph21020142 ISSN: 1660-4601

A 16-Year Chronicle of Developing a Healthy Workplace Participatory Program for Total Worker Health® in the Connecticut Department of Correction: The Health Improvement through Employee Control (HITEC) Program

Martin Cherniack, Sara Namazi, Matthew Brennan, Robert Henning, Alicia Dugan, Mazen El Ghaziri
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Health Improvement Through Employee Control (HITEC) is a 16-year program directed toward the health of corrections personnel and developed through the application of the principles of Participatory Action Research (PAR) and participatory ergonomics. Its impetus has always been the adverse health status of the corrections workforce: early mortality, depression, obesity, and hypertension. The HITEC program trained small “Design Teams” (DTs) of front-line personnel in participatory methods for intervention design for health improvement and organizational change in line with the Total Worker Health® principles. Periodic surveys and physical testing were introduced for longitudinal assessments. Comparative interventions at comparable sites included DTs without a priori assignation, problem-focused kaizen effectiveness teams (KETs), and bargaining unit-centered DTs. DT resilience and the replacement of members who transferred facilities or retired was aided by novel cooperative administrative structures. DT-generated interventions included stress lounges, changes in critical event report writing, a joint program with trained inmates to improve air quality, and training in staff mental health and sleep behavior. A specialized peer-to-peer Health Mentoring Program (HMP) paired new officers with trained peers. Many interventions and program features were institutionalized, thus improving prospects for self-supporting program longevity. Participatory interventions designed and supported by the corrections workforce were found to be both feasible and exceptionally effective.

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