Health inclusive: workplace health promotion for employees with impairments (Austria)

The living and working conditions of people with disabilities are often excluded from the activities and methods of WHP. An innovative project from Austria provides a remedy.

People with impairments represent a vulnerable target group because they are generally less healthy, more frequently chronically ill and suffer more often from comorbidities as well as having a more complicated progression of illness with an overall lower life expectancy. In addition, staff working in facilities for people with disabilities tend to be subject to high levels of psychosocial stress.

Comprehensive health promotion for staff takes place in many companies in Austria, including some institutions for people with disabilities. However, the usual approaches to and potential for WHP can cannot be utilised for people with special needs. The Health Inclusive Project developed and tested new methods of WHP for a participatory, inclusive setting, so that both employees with cognitive and/or physical impairments and employees without impairments can work together in the process of WHP on an equal basis.

Based on established principles of WHP (ENWHP, 1997) and quality criteria (ÖNBGF, 2021), the typical WHP methods and instruments were adapted to the needs of the target group of people with disabilities. Particular emphasis was placed on participatory processes and the inclusion of the views of all those affected, and also on the communication needs of people with cognitive impairments. For example, consideration was given to using accessible language and an appropriate choice of methods - an accessible questionnaire in easy language and an observation sheet were developed. In addition, the Health Circles approach was adapted to the needs of the target groups.

The testing of the methods and instruments took place between 2018 and 2020 at the competence network KI-I and in three workshops of Diakoniewerk Gallneukirchen in Upper Austria. In total, these companies employed almost 120 people, the majority of whom have disabilities. The project was evaluated by an external cooperation partner and by an advisory board of experts.

Key learning experiences from the project include:

·        the awareness-raising phase of the process was very conducive to inclusive WHP processes and should be maintained in future applications.

·        For a truly participatory way of working, it is necessary to adapt all documents, presentations, and media as best as possible to the needs of people with impairments.

·        Intensive cooperation, consultation and reflection with the target group is essential. This results in an increased need for time resources, e.g. for the preparation of documents, media, and materials for the target group as well as for the organisation of meetings and presentations or for the preparation of moderations.

The results were collected and summarised in a guide (Lattner, Peböck, & Bäck, 2021). This guideline is now freely available, published by the Austrian Health Promotion Fund and was written in "easy reading, comprehensibility level B1" language. On the project website, additional materials (e.g. checklists for staff with high support needs, video on health, game materials such as the adapted health determinant model and stages of participation) can be obtained in German for further use. Both the guide and the website have been designed to be accessible.

The results of the innovative project are ground-breaking for the further development of quality WHP and represent a promising contribution to more health equity for employees with disabilities. The companies involved in the project were awarded the WHP quality certificate (Gütesiegel für Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung) in 2021 by Austrian Network for WHP, in which approaches are assessed according to 15 WHP quality criteria.

The project was supported by Austrian Health Promotion Fund (Fonds Gesundes Österreich, FGÖ), Austrian Network for WHP (Österreichisches Netzwerk Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung), Austrian Health Insurance Fund (Österreichische Gesundheitskasse), Health Province Upper Austria (Gesundheitsland Oberösterreich), Social Province Upper Austria (Sozialland Oberösterreich) and Chamber for Workers and Employees Upper Austria (Arbeiterkammer Oberösterreich).


Project homepage:

FGÖ knowledge booklet:


Gert Lang, Austrian Health Promotion Fund, Austrian National Public Health Institute,

Karina Lattner, Competence Network Information Technology to Support the Integration of People with Disabilities,


ENWHP. (1997). Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union.   Retrieved 18.09.2021 from

Lattner, K., Peböck, B., & Bäck, M. (2021). Leitfaden für inklusive Betriebliche Gesundheits-Förderung. Linz: Fonds Gesundes Österreich, Gesundheit Österreich.

ÖNBGF. (2021). Die 15 Qualitätskriterien des Österreichischen Netzwerk Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung.   Retrieved 10.11.2021 from