Blood Pressure Testing Week is a great moment to encourage employees to engage with occupational health to get their health checked out and to ensure they are not at risk of falling foul of “the silent killer”.
Employee health and wellbeing – raising the profile of blood pressure checks
High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as “the silent killer” because it is often symptomless yet, according to Blood Pressure UK, is responsible for more than half of all strokes and heart attacks in the UK.
That’s why the charity’s “Know Your Numbers” Blood Pressure Testing Week from 10-16 September is so valuable.
During the week, hundreds of “Pressure Stations” up and down the country – with many employers taking part – will offer free blood pressure checks, enabling thousands of people to get checked out.
As Hemini Bharadia, marketing manager at Blood Pressure UK, has said: “In 2018 we want to encourage all family members to check their blood pressure and learn the risks of having high blood pressure, so if they have it, they can be easily treated, reducing the risk of a stroke or heart disease.”
Blood pressure is, of course, one of the things you can also get checked as part of the free NHS Health Checks for adults aged over 40.
As well as engaging with Blood Pressure Testing Week itself, an important message therefore for employers is to put in place the environment and support that will encourage employees who are eligible to take the time off they need to go and have their NHS Health Check.
But there is a wider and important occupational health message here, too: the value of doing it yourself, of offering health and wellbeing “MOTs” through your occupational health team directly within the workplace.
These will normally cover basic health checks such as blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, height, BMI, diet and alcohol consumption, exercise and so on.
Occupational health conversations
Such a health checks programme can act as a valuable “way in” to the important conversations we all need to be having as a society around health, wellbeing and healthier lifestyles, especially as our workforce ages and working lives become more sedentary.
Offering employee health checks can be a valuable addition to the NHS’ provision plus initiatives such as Know Your Numbers, for example by reaching younger employees who may not yet be eligible for NHS Health Checks or engaging with those who have either ignored or not been aware of the wider provision out there.
As Dr Lucy Wright, Optima Health Chief Medical Officer, highlights: “Many of us are only too aware that we could be living more healthily: eating better or taking more exercise, for example. So for many employers, offering health checks can be pushing at an open door and may be something employees welcome and value.
“Workplace health checks or health MOTs should not, of course, look to take the place of NHS Checks or, indeed, act as a disincentive for people to engage with their GPs if they have a health worry or concern.
“But they can be a great way to engage your workforce around important health and wellbeing messages, improve awareness and understanding of how to make healthier lifestyle choices and potentially act as a valuable health and wellbeing wake-up call for employees, even if at a day-to-day level they feel fine.”