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Are workplace health promotion programmes effective for all socioeconomic groups? A systematic review
  1. David van de Ven,
  2. Suzan J W Robroek,
  3. Alex Burdorf
  1. Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Suzan J W Robroek, Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam 3000 CA, The Netherlands; s.robroek{at}


Decreasing socioeconomic health inequalities is considered an important policy priority in many countries. Workplace health promotion programmes (WHPPs) have shown modest improvements in health behaviour. This systematic review aims to determine the presence and magnitude of socioeconomic differences in effectiveness and the influence of programme characteristics on differential effectiveness of WHPPs. Three electronic databases were searched for systematic reviews published from 2013 onwards and for original studies published from 2015 onwards. We synthesised the reported socioeconomic differences in effectiveness of WHPPs on health behaviours, and calculated effectiveness ratios by dividing the programme effects in the lowest socioeconomic group by the programme effects in the highest socioeconomic group. Thirteen studies with 75 comparisons provided information on the effectiveness of WHPPs across socioeconomic groups. Ten studies with 54 comparisons reported equal effectiveness and one study with 3 comparisons reported higher effectiveness for lower socioeconomic groups. Quantitative information on programme effects was available for six studies with 18 comparisons, of which 13 comparisons showed equal effectiveness and 5 comparisons showed significantly higher effect sizes among workers in low socioeconomic position. The differential effectiveness of WHPPs did not vary across programme characteristics. In this study no indications are found that WHPPs increase socioeconomic inequalities in health behaviour. The limited quantitative information available suggests that WHPPs may contribute to reducing socioeconomic inequalities. Better insight is needed on socioeconomic differences in effectiveness of WHPPs to develop strategies to decrease socioeconomic inequalities in health in the workforce.

  • occupational health practice
  • health promotion
  • public health

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online to reflect the correct funding number.

  • Contributors SJWR and AB conceived the study. DvdV and SJWR screened the title and abstract of studies according to eligibility criteria. DvdV selected the eligible studies by investigation of the full-text papers, and the selection of relevant studies was checked by SJWR. DvdV performed the data extraction and SJWR checked the data extraction. DvdV and SJWR performed the quality assessment. AB determined the analytical strategy. DvdV performed the analysis and wrote the draft of the paper. SJWR and AB contributed to reviewing or revising the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw; project number: 531001403).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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