Workplaces play key role in prevention of heart disease

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   29th Nov 2018

Pictured (L to R) : Tim Collins, CEO, Irish Heart Foundation; Dr Cate Hartigan, Head of Health Promotion and Improvement, HSE; Biddy O’Neill, Healthy Ireland; and Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion Information and Training, Irish Heart Foundation.

98 workplaces around Ireland recognised for prioritising their employees’ heart health by the Irish Heart Foundation.

Workplaces can play a key role in the prevention of heart disease and stroke by promoting and offering healthier food choices to employees.

Employers can help their staff reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by making healthier food choices like fresh fruit and vegetables more accessible in staff restaurants. Known as healthy food “nudging” or “food choice architecture” these principles of product placement e.g. placing specific products at eye level or at the checkout) have been used by marketers for years to encourage shoppers to buy certain products, but does the same apply to healthier food choices in staff restaurants?

Is it possible to change our behaviour when it comes to food choices by presenting food to employees in the staff restaurant in a different order, or by making it more difficult to reach the less healthy foods?

According to Sarah Noone, Registered Dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation, this simple low-cost technique makes sense.

“The evidence coming to light in recent years would suggest that manipulation of healthier food product placement or proximity can influence food choice and that the effect of healthy food nudging seems promising in terms of consumers making healthier choices. We know most adults spend approximately 60 per cent of their waking hours at work. Most employees are now eating at least one if not two of their daily meals outside the home. Healthy eating can have a huge impact on how people feel during the day and the work they achieve. With a quarter of the food eaten by Irish adults prepared outside of the home, workplaces can play a key part in promoting and offering healthier food choices.”

" The effect of healthy food nudging seems promising in terms of consumers making healthier choices,"

Sarah Noone, Registered Dietitian, Irish Heart Foundation

Sarah said that despite the strong link between diet and heart health “as a nation we are not consuming a particularly healthy diet. According to the Healthy Ireland survey, 22 per cent of people report that they do not eat fruit or vegetables every day. Furthermore, almost two-thirds of people report that they consume snack foods or sugar-sweetened drinks daily,” Sarah added.

According to Sarah, “Promotion and provision of healthier food options within the workplace creates a supportive environment for making healthier choices ultimately using techniques such as ‘choice architecture’ and nudging to make the ‘healthy choice the easy choice’. Availability of healthier meal options, reduced portion sizing, placing fruit at the till area, removing salt from tables and strategic positioning of healthier products are just some of the ‘choice architecture’ and nudging techniques used by our expert dietitians.”

A great way to tackle heart disease and stroke is through workplace wellbeing initiatives such as ‘The Irish Heart Foundation’s Healthy Eating Award,’ which encourages healthier food promotion in the workplace.

A total of 98 companies and workplaces from around Ireland were recognised for prioritising their employees’ heart health at the Irish Heart Foundation’s annual Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards, which took place yesterday (Wednesday 28 November) in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin.

The Irish Heart Foundation has been supporting healthy workplaces nationwide for more than 20 years through its annual Healthy Eating Awards.

“ Workplaces represent an ideal setting in which to support people to make healthy changes to their diet and lifestyle,"

Tim Collins, CEO, Irish Heart Foundation

This year, 72 companies with more than 40,000 employees received the Healthy Eating Award, which assists staff restaurants in adopting healthier cooking practices and providing healthier food choices, ultimately making the healthier choice the easier choice for employees. There are three different levels of achievement – gold, silver and bronze – which are aligned to the Irish Heart Foundation and Department of Health’s Healthy Eating Guidelines. Implementation is overseen by the Irish Heart Foundation’s panel of registered dietitians.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Active@Work Award, launched in 2013, was presented to 26 companies with more than 23,000 employees this year in recognition of their efforts to increase employees’ physical activity levels at work

Presenting the awards, Mr Tim Collins, CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation, said: “I am delighted to present our Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards to 98 companies today. As a society, we have come a long way in reducing the number of people dying due to heart disease and stroke, however, there are worrying signs that increasing levels of obesity, diabetes and low levels of physical activity could undo this progress.

“Workplaces represent an ideal setting in which to support people to make healthy changes to their diet and lifestyle and it is heartening to see so many companies across the country prioritise their employees’ heart health. Achieving these awards requires great commitment and today we recognise the significant effort each of these companies has put into creating healthy, positive working environments for their staff.”

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards are supported by the HSE and Healthy Ireland.

Learn more about how the Irish Heart Foundation helps create healthier workplaces here


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active at work healthy eating heart disease stroke workplace awards workplace wellbeing workplaces

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