ENWHP history and achievements: The beginnings

“Healthy employees in healthy organisations” – the ENWHP vision. Based on the Maastricht Treaty and the introduction of Paragraph 129 into the EU Treaty, the European Community developed in 1995 the Action for Health Promotion, Information, Education and Training Programme (COM(94)202 final). Within the framework of this programme, the Commission’s task was to organize the exchange of information and to support, encourage and coordinate health promotion activities.

As workplace was considered one of the most important areas of activity the Commission asked the Federal Institute for Occupational Health and Safety in Dortmund (BAuA) to act as a liaison office to:

- develop an integrated action plan on health promotion at work in the European Community;
- develop a proposal for an information network to harness the resources available in the Member States;
- establish conditions under which an informal network for workplace health promotion could be created and to present a proposal on how to set up and run it.

A concept of Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) had to be drawn up before BAuA was able to commence its work on 1st December 1995. More than 50 representatives from a variety of institutions of the Member States came to Dortmund the 21st June 1995 to report on the situation of WHP and they discussed objectives and main elements of an informal network. The final report (“Integrated Plan of Action for Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union”) concluded the preparatory work and the Liaison Office could begin working.

Nearly all of the then Member States expressed their interest in taking part in this new network and to set up a contact office in their own countries.

The first official meeting of the Network took place on 6 February 1996 in Luxembourg. It was clear from the beginning that there were great disparities between the participating countries, as well as considerable differences in the approach, methods, processes and issues, that influenced WHP policy. Even the term Workplace Health Promotion was virtually unknown in the northern European languages or did not mean the same thing to all members of the network.

In fact, the FIRST CHALLENGE was to agree on a common understanding of WHP and the FIRST ACHIEVEMENT was the Luxembourg Declaration, ratified in 1997, setting out for the first time, a Europe-wide, commonly agreed definition of WHP:

Workplace Health Promotion is the combined effort of employers, employees and society to improve the health and wellbeing of people at work.

This can be achieved through a combination of:

  • improving work organization and the working environment,
  • promoting active participation,
  • encouraging personal development.

Photo credit: Beginnings by Andrea Parrish - Geyer on https://www.flickr.com/photos/tinytall/7259499574