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Integrating Employee Health: A Model Program for NASA

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The American workforce is changing, creating new challenges for employers to provide occupational health services to meet the needs of employees. First, a shift from manufacturing to services, knowledgecentered, and mobile work has changed the focus of occupational health from physical injury and exposure-related illness prevention and management to enhancing performance, productivity, and resilience of workers. Second, the impact of non-occupational illness on performance, productivity and health care costs now outweighs that of occupational illnesses and injuries for many employers. There is, however, an opportunity to lessen the impact of these illnesses through an integrated, total health approach.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an organization that includes 14 independent geographically diverse centers. NASA employs more than 72,000 people in its workforce; approximately 75 percent are non-federal contract employees and 25 percent are civil servants. The NASA workforce is highly skilled and competitive, and employees frequently work under intense pressure to ensure mission success. NASA also has an aging workforce that, like their colleagues in other agencies and in the private sector, is at risk for chronic diseases associated with an older population. These include heart disease, hypertension, overweight and obesity, and diabetes, which are frequently associated with sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits such as high fat, high sodium, calorie-dense food choices.
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