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Home > Strategies to improve the implementation of workplace‐based policies or practices targeting tobacco, alcohol, diet, physical activity and obesity.

Wolfenden, Luke and Goldman, Sharni and Stacey, Fiona G and Grady, Alice and Kingsland, Melanie and Williams, Christopher M and Wiggers, John and Milat, Andrew and Rissel, Chris and Bauman, Adrian and Farrell, Margaret M and Légaré, France and Ben Charif, Ali and Zomahoun, Hervé Tchala Vignon and Hodder, Rebecca K and Jones, Jannah and Booth, Debbie and Parmenter, Benjamin and Regan, Tim and Yoong, Sze Lin (2018) Strategies to improve the implementation of workplace‐based policies or practices targeting tobacco, alcohol, diet, physical activity and obesity. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews , (11) . Art. No.: CD012439. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012439.pub2.


We included six trials, four of which took place in the USA. Four trials employed randomised controlled trial (RCT) designs. Trials were conducted in workplaces from the manufacturing, industrial and services‐based sectors. The sample sizes of workplaces ranged from 12 to 114. Workplace policies and practices targeted included: healthy catering policies; point‐of‐purchase nutrition labelling; environmental supports for healthy eating and physical activity; tobacco control policies; weight management programmes; and adherence to guidelines for staff health promotion. All implementation interventions utilised multiple implementation strategies, the most common of which were educational meetings, tailored interventions and local consensus processes. Four trials compared an implementation strategy intervention with a no intervention control, one trial compared different implementation interventions, and one three‐arm trial compared two implementation strategies with each other and a control. Four trials reported a single implementation outcome, whilst the other two reported multiple outcomes. Investigators assessed outcomes using surveys, audits and environmental observations. We judged most trials to be at high risk of performance and detection bias and at unclear risk of reporting and attrition bias.

Of the five trials comparing implementation strategies with a no intervention control, pooled analysis was possible for three RCTs reporting continuous score‐based measures of implementation outcomes. The meta‐analysis found no difference in standardised effects (standardised mean difference (SMD) −0.01, 95% CI −0.32 to 0.30; 164 participants; 3 studies; low certainty evidence), suggesting no benefit of implementation support in improving policy or practice implementation, relative to control. Findings for other continuous or dichotomous implementation outcomes reported across these five trials were mixed. For the two non‐randomised trials examining comparative effectiveness, both reported improvements in implementation, favouring the more intensive implementation group (very low certainty evidence). Three trials examined the impact of implementation strategies on employee health behaviours, reporting mixed effects for diet and weight status (very low certainty evidence) and no effect for physical activity (very low certainty evidence) or tobacco use (low certainty evidence). One trial reported an increase in absolute workplace costs for health promotion in the implementation group (low certainty evidence). None of the included trials assessed adverse consequences. Limitations of the review included the small number of trials identified and the lack of consistent terminology applied in the implementation science field, which may have resulted in us overlooking potentially relevant trials in the search.

Authors' conclusions:
Available evidence regarding the effectiveness of implementation strategies for improving implementation of health‐promoting policies and practices in the workplace setting is sparse and inconsistent. Low certainty evidence suggests that such strategies may make little or no difference on measures of implementation fidelity or different employee health behaviour outcomes. It is also unclear if such strategies are cost‐effective or have potential unintended adverse consequences. The limited number of trials identified suggests implementation research in the workplace setting is in its infancy, warranting further research to guide evidence translation in this setting.

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