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1.  Factors associated with work disability in employed cancer survivors at 24-month sick leave 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:236.
Identification of factors associated with work disability in cancer survivors on long term sick leave may support these survivors in choosing effective measures to facilitate vocational rehabilitation and return to work. Therefore, this study aims to disclose factors associated with work disability in cancer survivors at 24 months of sick leave.
A cross sectional study was conducted. The study population consisted of employed sick-listed cancer survivors, aged between 18 and 64 years. They received a questionnaire at 24-month sick leave, the maximum period of sick leave allowed by Dutch social security legislation. Data were linked with the outcome of work disability assessment, as performed by the Dutch social security agency. A hierarchical multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to identify factors associated with work disability.
Data of 351 valid cases were analysed. The multivariate analysis showed that, for cancer survivors at 24-month sick leave, Dutch nationality, higher education, receiving hormone therapy, metastatic disease, physical limitations and low self-reported work ability were associated with an increased risk for work disability.
This study identified factors associated with work disability of employed cancer survivors at 24 months of sick leave. The results of the current study may serve as a starting point to investigate the course of work disability beyond the maximum period of 24 months of sick leave. In order to enhance work participation of cancer survivors beyond this term, prospective data on work disability in the Netherlands are required.
PMCID: PMC3976500  PMID: 24693855
Cancer; Survivors; Work disability; Return to work; Limitations; Sick leave
2.  Effectiveness of a worksite mindfulness-based multi-component intervention on lifestyle behaviors 
Overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk of morbidity. Mindfulness training could be an effective strategy to optimize lifestyle behaviors related to body weight gain. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a worksite mindfulness-based multi-component intervention on vigorous physical activity in leisure time, sedentary behavior at work, fruit intake and determinants of these behaviors. The control group received information on existing lifestyle behavior- related facilities that were already available at the worksite.
In a randomized controlled trial design (n = 257), 129 workers received a mindfulness training, followed by e-coaching, lunch walking routes and fruit. Outcome measures were assessed at baseline and after 6 and 12 months using questionnaires. Physical activity was also measured using accelerometers. Effects were analyzed using linear mixed effect models according to the intention-to-treat principle. Linear regression models (complete case analyses) were used as sensitivity analyses.
There were no significant differences in lifestyle behaviors and determinants of these behaviors between the intervention and control group after 6 or 12 months. The sensitivity analyses showed effect modification for gender in sedentary behavior at work at 6-month follow-up, although the main analyses did not.
This study did not show an effect of a worksite mindfulness-based multi-component intervention on lifestyle behaviors and behavioral determinants after 6 and 12 months. The effectiveness of a worksite mindfulness-based multi-component intervention as a health promotion intervention for all workers could not be established.
PMCID: PMC3905927  PMID: 24467802
3.  Relationships between the intention to use guidelines, behaviour of insurance physicians and their determinants 
We studied the intention of a group of insurance physicians to use the guidelines for depression, and their behaviour in disability assessments. We considered attitude, social norm and self-efficacy, knowledge/skills and stimuli, based on the Attitude - Social norm - self-Efficacy model (ASE model) as possible determinants of both intention and behaviour.
The aim of this study was to understand the determinants of insurance physicians’ behaviour when they are expected to use guidelines in daily practice.
A representative sample of 42 insurance physicians participated in this study. Cross-sectional data were collected by means of a questionnaire based on the ASE model. We developed the questionnaire on the basis of literature and ascertained the content validity of it. Behaviour was made to comprise both “use of the guidelines” and “change in disability assessment behaviour” by the insurance physicians. Reliability analyses were performed to form additive scales of the ASE constructs. These scales were analysed with structural equations modelling (LISREL), by modifying a start model into a final model with a good fit, within theoretical constraints. In these analyses special attention was paid to the fact that the sample size was small.
The most important determinants of the intention and the self-reported use of the guidelines, were: the influence of colleagues, the self-efficacy of the insurance physicians in their use of the guidelines, and the way the guidelines were implemented. The intention to use the guidelines for depression was not associated with the self-reported use of these guidelines, but there proved to be a faint, positive association with the self-reported change in assessment behaviour.
Almost all the insurance physicians in this study intended to use at least elements of the guidelines. Their intention, self reported use of the guidelines and self-reported change in assessment behaviour were explored with help of the ASE model. The model suggested relationships between intention, self reported use of the guidelines and self-reported change in assessment behaviour on the on the one hand and various determinants on the other hand. Be that as it may, we see opportunities to improve insurance physicians’ guideline adherence by offering them a multifaceted training in which they learn to apply the guidelines for depression.
PMCID: PMC3851955  PMID: 24103198
Insurance physician; Guidelines for depression; Intention; Behaviour; ASE model
4.  Development and evaluation of an intervention aiming to reduce fatigue in airline pilots: design of a randomised controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:776.
A considerable percentage of flight crew reports to be fatigued regularly. This is partly caused by irregular and long working hours and the crossing of time zones. It has been shown that persistent fatigue can lead to health problems, impaired performance during work, and a decreased work-private life balance. It is hypothesized that an intervention consisting of tailored advice regarding exposure to daylight, optimising sleep, physical activity, and nutrition will lead to a reduction of fatigue in airline pilots compared to a control group, which receives a minimal intervention with standard available information.
The study population will consist of pilots of a large airline company. All pilots who posses a smartphone or tablet, and who are not on sick leave for more than four weeks at the moment of recruitment, will be eligible for participation.
In a two-armed randomised controlled trial, participants will be allocated to an intervention group that will receive the tailored advice to optimise exposure to daylight, sleep, physical activity and nutrition, and a control group that will receive standard available information. The intervention will be applied using a smartphone application and a website, and will be tailored on flight- and participant-specific characteristics. The primary outcome of the study is perceived fatigue. Secondary outcomes are need for recovery, duration and quality of sleep, dietary and physical activity behaviours, work-private life balance, general health, and sickness absence. A process evaluation will be conducted as well. Outcomes will be measured at baseline and at three and six months after baseline.
This paper describes the development of an intervention for airline pilots, consisting of tailored advice (on exposure to daylight and sleep-, physical activity, and nutrition) applied into a smartphone application. Further, the paper describes the design of the randomised controlled trial evaluating the effect of the intervention on fatigue, health and sickness absence. If proven effective, the intervention can be applied as a new and practical tool in fatigue management. Results are expected at the end of 2013.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register: NTR2722
PMCID: PMC3765738  PMID: 23971514
Flight crew; Pilots; Irregular working hours; Fatigue; Intervention; Tailored advice; Implementation; Smartphone application; mHealth
5.  The relation between body mass index and musculoskeletal symptoms in the working population 
The primary aim of this study was to investigate the association between BMI and musculoskeletal symptoms in interaction with physical workload. In addition, it was aimed to obtain insight into whether overweight and obesity are associated with an increase in occurrence of symptoms and/or decrease in recovery from symptoms.
Based on a large working population sample (n = 44,793), using the data from The Netherlands Working Conditions Survey (NWCS), logistic regression analyses were carried out to investigate the association between BMI and musculoskeletal symptoms, with adjustment for potential confounders. Longitudinal data from the Netherlands Working Conditions Cohort Study (NWCCS) of 7,909 respondents was used for the second research aim (i.e., to investigate the transition in musculoskeletal symptoms).
For high BMI an increased 12-month prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms was found (overweight: OR 1.13, 95% CI: 1.08-1.19 and obesity: OR 1.28, 95% CI: 1.19-1.39). The association was modified by physical workload, with a stronger association for employees with low physical workload than for those with high physical workload. Obesity was related to developing musculoskeletal symptoms (OR 1.37, 95% CI: 1.05-1.79) and inversely related to recovery from symptoms (OR 0.76, 95% CI: 0.59-0.97).
BMI was associated with musculoskeletal symptoms, in particular symptoms of the lower extremity. Furthermore, the association differed for employees with high or low physical workload. Compared to employees with normal weight, obese employees had higher risk for developing symptoms as well as less recovery from symptoms. This study supports the role of biomechanical factors for the relationship between BMI and symptoms in the lower extremity.
PMCID: PMC3751130  PMID: 23937768
Musculoskeletal disorders; Overweight/obesity; Physical workload; Worker population
6.  An exploratory study of associations of physical activity with mental health and work engagement 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:558.
Previous studies have found moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) to be associated with a decreased risk of mental disorders. Although the focus in the field of psychology has shifted towards human strengths and optimal functioning, studies examining associations between MVPA and mental health in general (MH) and between MVPA and well-being are scarce. An indicator of work-related well-being is work engagement (WE). The aim of this study was to explore the associations between MVPA and MH, and between MVPA and WE.
In this study, a total of 257 employees from two research institutes, self-reported their MVPA, MH and level of WE. In addition, a randomly chosen subgroup (n=100) wore an Actigraph accelerometer for a 1-week period to measure their MVPA objectively. Crude and adjusted associations between MVPA and both WE and MH were analyzed using linear regression analyses.
There was no statistically significant association between self-reported MVPA and mental health, resulting from both the crude (b=0.058, 95% CI -0.118 - 0.235) and adjusted analyses (b=0.026; 95% CI -0.158- 0.210), nor between objectively measured MVPA and mental health for both crude and adjusted analyses (b=-0.144; 95% CI -1.315- 1.027; b=-0.199; 95% CI 1.417- 1.018 respectively). There was also no significant association between self-reported MVPA and work engagement (crude: b=0.005; 95% CI -0.005-0.016, adjusted: b= 0.002; 95% CI -0.010- 0.013), nor between objectively measured MVPA and work engagement (crude: b= 0.012; 95% CI -0.084- 0.060, adjusted: b=0.007; 95% CI -0.083-0.069).
Although the beneficial effects of MVPA on the negative side of MH (i.e. mental disorders) have been established in previous studies, this study found no evidence for the beneficial effects of MVPA on positive side of MH (i.e. well-being). The possible difference in how the physical activity-mental health relationship works for negative and positive sides of MH should be considered in future studies.
PMCID: PMC3682939  PMID: 23758966
Work engagement; Physical activity; Accelerometry
7.  ‘All those things together made me retire’: qualitative study on early retirement among Dutch employees 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:516.
Due to the aging of the population and subsequent higher pressure on public finances, there is a need for employees in many European countries to extend their working lives. One way in which this can be achieved is by employees refraining from retiring early. Factors predicting early retirement have been identified in quantitative research, but little is known on why and how these factors influence early retirement. The present qualitative study investigated which non-health related factors influence early retirement, and why and how these factors influence early retirement.
A qualitative study among 30 Dutch employees (60–64 years) who retired early, i.e. before the age of 65, was performed by means of face-to-face interviews. Participants were selected from the cohort Study on Transitions in Employment, Ability and Motivation (STREAM).
For most employees, a combination of factors played a role in the transition from work to early retirement, and the specific factors involved differed between individuals. Participants reported various factors that pushed towards early retirement (‘push factors’), including organizational changes at work, conflicts at work, high work pressure, high physical job demands, and insufficient use of their skills and knowledge by others in the organization. Employees who reported such push factors towards early retirement often felt unable to find another job. Factors attracting towards early retirement (‘pull factors’) included the wish to do other things outside of work, enjoy life, have more flexibility, spend more time with a spouse or grandchildren, and care for others. In addition, the financial opportunity to retire early played an important role. Factors influenced early retirement via changes in the motivation, ability and opportunity to continue working or retire early.
To support the prolongation of working life, it seems important to improve the fit between the physical and psychosocial job characteristics on the one hand, and the abilities and wishes of the employee on the other hand. Alongside improvements in the work environment that enable and motivate employees to prolong their careers, a continuous dialogue between the employer and employee on the (future) person-job fit and tailored interventions might be helpful.
PMCID: PMC3674915  PMID: 23714371
Early retirement; Pull factors; Push factors; Qualitative study
8.  Effectiveness of an intervention at construction worksites on work engagement, social support, physical workload, and need for recovery: results from a cluster randomized controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1008.
To prolong sustainable healthy working lives of construction workers, a worksite prevention program was developed which aimed to improve the health and work ability of construction workers. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effectiveness of this program on social support at work, work engagement, physical workload and need for recovery.
Fifteen departments from six construction companies participated in this cluster randomized controlled trial; 8 departments (n=171 workers) were randomized to an intervention group and 7 departments (n=122 workers) to a control group. The intervention consisted of two individual training sessions of a physical therapist to lower the physical workload, a Rest-Break tool to improve the balance between work and recovery, and two empowerment training sessions to increase the influence of the construction workers at the worksite. Data on work engagement, social support at work, physical workload, and need for recovery were collected at baseline, and at three, six and 12 months after the start of the intervention using questionnaires.
No differences between the intervention and control group were found for work engagement, social support at work, and need for recovery. At 6 months follow-up, the control group reported a small but statistically significant reduction of physical workload.
The intervention neither improved social support nor work engagement, nor was it effective in reducing the physical workload and need for recovery among construction workers.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3534539  PMID: 23171354
Construction industry; Sustainable employability; Intervention study; Empowerment; Physical therapist
9.  Changes in Insurance Physicians’ Attitudes, Self-Efficacy, Intention, and Knowledge and Skills Regarding the Guidelines for Depression, Following an Implementation Strategy 
Introduction To improve guideline adherence by insurance physicians (IPs), an implementation strategy was developed and investigated in a randomized controlled trial. This implementation strategy involved a multifaceted training programme for a group of IPs in applying the guidelines for depression. In this study we report the impact of the implementation strategy on the physicians’ attitude, intention, self-efficacy, and knowledge and skills as behavioural determinants of guideline adherence. Any links between these self-reported behavioural determinants and levels of guideline adherence were also determined. Methods Just before and 3 months after the implementation of the multifaceted training, a questionnaire designed to measure behavioural determinants on the basis of the ASE (attitude, social norm, self-efficacy) model was completed by the intervention (n = 21) and the control group (n = 19). Items of the questionnaire were grouped to form scales of ASE determinants. Internal consistency of the scales was calculated using Cronbach’s alphas. Differences between groups concerning changes in ASE determinants, and the association of these changes with improvements in guideline adherence, were analyzed using analysis of covariance. Results The internal consistency of the scales of ASE determinants proved to be sufficiently reliable, with Cronbach’s alphas of at least 0.70. At follow-up after 3 months, the IPs given the implementation strategy showed significant improvement over the IPs in the control group for all ASE determinants investigated. Changes in knowledge and skills were only weakly associated with improvements in guideline adherence. Conclusions The implementation strategy developed for insurance physicians can increase their attitude, intention, self-efficacy, and knowledge and skills when applying the guidelines for depression. These changes in behavioural determinants might indicate positive changes in IPs’ behaviour towards the use of the guidelines for depression. However, only changes in knowledge and skills related to the use of the guidelines were associated with improvements in IPs’ actual performance when applying the guidelines.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10926-012-9378-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3563952  PMID: 22763493
Guideline adherence; Insurance physicians; Guidelines for depression; ASE determinants
10.  The identification of job opportunities for severely disabled sick-listed employees 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:156.
Work disability is a major problem for both the worker and society. To explore the work opportunities in regular jobs of persons low in functional abilities, we tried to identify occupations low in task demands. Because of the variety of functional abilities and of the corresponding work demands, the disabled persons need to be classified by type of disability in a limited number of subgroups. Within each subgroup, occupations judged suitable for the most seriously disabled will be selected as having a very low level of the corresponding task demands. These occupations can be applied as reference occupations to assess the presence or absence of work capacity of sick-listed employees in regular jobs, and as job opportunities for people with a specific type of functional disability.
Registered data from 50,931 disability assessments within the Dutch social security system were used in a second order factor analysis to identify types of disabilities in claimants for a disability pension. Threshold values were chosen to classify claimants according to the severity of the disability. In the disability assessment procedure, a labour expert needs to select jobs with task demands not exceeding the functional abilities of the claimant. For each type of disability, the accessible jobs for the subgroup of the most severely disabled claimants were identified as lowest in the corresponding demand.
The factor analysis resulted in four types of disabilities: general physical ability; autonomy; psychological ability; and manual skills. For each of these types of disablement, a set of four to six occupations low in task demands were selected for the subgroup of most severely disabled claimants. Because of an overlap of the sets of occupations, 13 occupations were selected in total. The percentage of claimants with at least one of the occupations of the corresponding set (the coverage), ranged from 84% to 93%. An alternative selection of six occupations for all subgroups with even less overlap had a coverage ranging from 84% to 89% per subgroup.
This study resulted in two proposals for a set of reference occupations. Further research will be needed to compare the results of the new method of disability assessment to the results of the method presently used in practice.
PMCID: PMC3311569  PMID: 22394686
11.  An implementation strategy to improve the guideline adherence of insurance physicians: an experiment in a controlled setting 
The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of a newly developed implementation strategy for the insurance medicine guidelines for depression in the Netherlands. We hypothesized that an educational intervention would increase the insurance physicians' (IPs) guideline adherence in a controlled setting.
Forty IPs were allocated in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to an intervention group (IG) (n = 21) and a control group (CG) (n = 19). The IG received tailored training in applying the guidelines for depression, while the CG received an alternative programme. Baseline (T0) and follow-up (T1) measurements were conducted before and after the intervention within a period of two weeks. The intervention consisted of a workshop in which the evidence-based theory of the guidelines was translated for use in practice, with the help of various tools. The IPs had to write a case-report on the basis of video cases, two before and two after the training. Specially trained and blinded test IPs judged the case reports independently on the basis of six performance indicators. Primary outcome measure in the controlled setting of the trial was guideline adherence measured by six performance indicators on a scale of one to seven. Secondary outcome measure was knowledge of the guidelines for depression. Analyses were performed using Linear Mixed Models, and ANCOVA.
We found significantly higher scores in the IG than in the CG at T1 for both outcomes. The interaction effect (standard error; p-value) of group crossed with time was 0.97 (0.19; p < 0.0005) for guideline adherence in the controlled setting. The group effect at T1 for the knowledge test was 0.86 (0.40; p = 0.038).
The newly developed implementation strategy for the insurance medicine guidelines for depression improved the guideline adherence of the trained IPs in disability assessments of clients with depression when performed in a controlled setting. Furthermore, the trained IPs showed gains in knowledge of the guidelines for depression.
Trial registration
Netherlands' Trial Register NTR1863.
PMCID: PMC3265414  PMID: 22188876
12.  Short and long term effects of a lifestyle intervention for construction workers at risk for cardiovascular disease: a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:836.
The prevalence of overweight and elevated cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among workers in the construction industry is relatively high. Improving lifestyle lowers CVD risk and may have work-related benefits. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effects on physical activity (PA), diet, and smoking of a lifestyle intervention consisting of individual counseling among male workers in the construction industry with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
In a randomized controlled trial including 816 male blue- and white-collar workers in the construction industry with an elevated risk of CVD, usual care was compared to a 6-month lifestyle intervention. The intervention consisted of individual counseling using motivational interviewing techniques, and was delivered by an occupational physician or occupational nurse. In three face to face and four telephone contacts, the participant's risk profile, personal determinants, and barriers for behavior change were discussed, and personal goals were set. Participants chose to aim at either diet and PA, or smoking. Data were collected at baseline and after six and 12 months, by means of a questionnaire. To analyse the data, linear and logistic regression analyses were performed.
The intervention had a statistically significant beneficial effect on snack intake (β-1.9, 95%CI -3.7; -0.02) and fruit intake (β 1.7, 95%CI 0.6; 2.9) at 6 months. The effect on snack intake was sustained until 12 months; 6 months after the intervention had ended (β -1.9, 95%CI -3.6; -0.2). The intervention effects on leisure time PA and metabolic equivalent-minutes were not statistically significant. The beneficial effect on smoking was statistically significant at 6 (OR smoking 0.3, 95%CI 0.1;0.7), but not at 12 months (OR 0.8, 95%CI 0.4; 1.6).
Beneficial effects on smoking, fruit, and snack intake can be achieved by an individual-based lifestyle intervention among male construction workers with an elevated risk of CVD. Future research should be done on strategies to improve leisure time PA and on determinants of maintenance of changed behavior. Considering the rising prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle and CVD, especially in the aging population, implementation of this intervention in the occupational health care setting is recommended.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN60545588
PMCID: PMC3247875  PMID: 22040007
13.  Mindful "Vitality in Practice": an intervention to improve the work engagement and energy balance among workers; the development and design of the randomised controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:736.
Modern working life has become more mental and less physical in nature, contributing to impaired mental health and a disturbed energy balance. This may result in mental health problems and overweight. Both are significant threats to the health of workers and thus also a financial burden for society, including employers. Targeting work engagement and energy balance could prevent impaired mental health and overweight, respectively.
The study population consists of highly educated workers in two Dutch research institutes. The intervention was systematically developed, based on the Intervention Mapping (IM) protocol, involving workers and management in the process. The workers' needs were assessed by combining the results of interviews, focus group discussions and a questionnaire with available literature. Suitable methods and strategies were selected resulting in an intervention including: eight weeks of customized mindfulness training, followed by eight sessions of e-coaching and supporting elements, such as providing fruit and snack vegetables at the workplace, lunch walking routes, and a buddy system. The effects of the intervention will be evaluated in a RCT, with measurements at baseline, six months (T1) and 12 months (T2). In addition, cost-effectiveness and process of the intervention will also be evaluated.
At baseline the level of work engagement of the sample was "average". Of the study population, 60.1% did not engage in vigorous physical activity at all. An average working day consists of eight sedentary hours. For the Phase II RCT, there were no significant differences between the intervention and the control group at baseline, except for vigorous physical activity. The baseline characteristics of the study population were congruent with the results of the needs assessment. The IM protocol used for the systematic development of the intervention produced an appropriate intervention to test in the planned RCT.
Trial registration number
Netherlands Trial Register (NTR): NTR2199
PMCID: PMC3189893  PMID: 21951433
Work Engagement; Energy balance related behaviours; Physical Activity; Sedentary behaviour; Dietary behaviour; RCT; Mindfulness
14.  A process evaluation of a worksite vitality intervention among ageing hospital workers 
The process evaluation of the Vital@Work intervention was primary aimed at gaining insight into the context, dose delivered, fidelity, reach, dose received, and participants' attitude. Further, the differences between intervention locations were evaluated.
Eligible for this study were 730 workers, aged ≥ 45 years, from two academic hospitals. Workers randomised to the intervention group (n = 367) received a 6-months intervention consisting a Vitality Exercise Programme (VEP) combined with three visits to a Personal Vitality Coach (PVC), aimed at goal setting, feedback, and problem solving. The VEP consisted of a guided yoga session, a guided workout session, and aerobic exercising without direct face-to-face instruction, all once a week. Data were collected by means of a questionnaire after the intervention, attendance registration forms (i.e. attendance at guided VEP group sessions), and coaching registration forms (filled in by the PVCs).
The dose delivered of the yoga and workout sessions were 72.3% and 96.3%. All PVC visits (100%) were offered. The reach for the yoga sessions, workout sessions and PVC visits was 70.6%, 63.8%, and 89.6%, respectively. When taken these three intervention components together, the reach was 52%. This differed between the two locations (59.2% versus 36.8%). The dose received was for the yoga 10.4 sessions/24 weeks and for the workout 11.1 sessions/24 weeks. The attendance rate, defined as the mean percentage of attended group sessions in relation to the total provided group sessions, for the yoga and workout sessions was 51.7% and 44.8%, respectively. For the yoga sessions this rate was different between the two locations (63.2% versus 46.5%). No differences were found between the locations regarding the workout sessions and PVC visits. Workers attended on average 2.7 PVC visits. Overall, workers were satisfied with the intervention components: 7.5 for yoga sessions, 7.8 for workout sessions, and 6.9 for PVC visits.
The implementation of the intervention was accomplished as planned with respect to the dose delivered. Based on the reach, most workers were willing to attend the guided group sessions and the PVC visits, although there were differences between the locations and between intervention components. Overall, workers were positive about the intervention.
Trial registration
Trial registration NTR1240
PMCID: PMC3127968  PMID: 21663610
process evaluation; ageing workers; vitality; lifestyle intervention
15.  A Participatory Return-to-Work Program for Temporary Agency Workers and Unemployed Workers Sick-Listed Due to Musculoskeletal Disorders: a Process Evaluation Alongside a Randomized Controlled Trial 
Introduction Beside (cost-)effectiveness, the feasibility of an intervention is important for successful implementation in daily practice. This study concerns the process evaluation of a newly developed participatory return-to-work (RTW) program for workers without an employment contract, sick-listed due to musculoskeletal disorders. The program consisted of a stepwise process, guided by an independent RTW coordinator, aimed at making a consensus-based RTW plan with the possibility of a temporary (therapeutic) workplace. The aims of this study were to describe the reach and extent of implementation of the new program, the satisfaction and experiences of all stakeholders, and the perceived barriers and facilitators for implementation of the program in daily practice. Methods Temporary agency workers and unemployed workers, sick-listed for 2–8 weeks due to musculoskeletal disorders were eligible for this study. Data were collected from the workers; their insurance physicians and labour experts at the Dutch Social Security Agency; RTW coordinators; and case managers from participating vocational rehabilitation agencies. Data collection took place using professionals’ reports, standardized matrices, questionnaires at baseline and at 3-month follow-up, and group interviews with the professionals. Results Of the 79 workers who were allocated to the participatory RTW program group, 72 workers actually started with the intervention. Overall, implementation of the program was performed according to protocol. However, offering of suitable temporary workplaces was delayed with 44.5 days. Results showed satisfaction with the RTW coordinator among the workers and three quarters of the labour experts experienced a minor or major contribution of the presence of the RTW coordinator. Several barriers for implementation were identified, such as the administrative time-investment, unclear information about the program, no timely offering of temporary (therapeutic) workplaces, and the need for additional support in case of complex health problems. Conclusions This study indicates overall feasibility for implementation of the participatory RTW program in daily practice. However, to overcome important barriers, more attention should be paid to improve timely offering of suitable temporary workplaces, to describe more clearly the program goals and the professional’s roles, and to offer additional support for workers suffering from complex multi-causal health problems. Trial registration NTR1047.
PMCID: PMC3274681  PMID: 21656252
Feasibility; Implementation; Return to work; Occupational health care; Vocational rehabilitation; Worker without employment contract
16.  Systematic development of a communication skills training course for physicians performing work disability assessments: from evidence to practice 
BMC Medical Education  2011;11:28.
Physicians require specific communication skills, because the face-to-face contact with their patients is an important source of information. Although physicians who perform work disability assessments attend some communication-related training courses during their professional education, no specialised and evidence-based communication skills training course is available for them. Therefore, the objectives of this study were: 1) to systematically develop a training course aimed at improving the communication skills of physicians during work disability assessment interviews with disability claimants, and 2) to plan an evaluation of the training course.
A physician-tailored communication skills training course was developed, according to the six steps of the Intervention Mapping protocol. Data were collected from questionnaire studies among physicians and claimants, a focus group study among physicians, a systematic review of the literature, and meetings with various experts. Determinants and performance objectives were formulated. A concept version of the training course was discussed with several experts before the final training course programme was established. The evaluation plan was developed by consulting experts, social insurance physicians, researchers, and policy-makers, and discussing with them the options for evaluation.
A two-day post-graduate communication skills training course was developed, aimed at improving professional communication during work disability assessment interviews. Special focus was on active teaching strategies, such as practising the skills in role-play. An adoption and implementation plan was formulated, in which the infrastructure of the educational department of the institute that employs the physicians was utilised. Improvement in the skills and knowledge of the physicians who will participate in the training course will be evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.
The feasibility and practical relevance of the communication skills training course that was developed seem promising. Such a course may be relevant for physicians in many countries who perform work disability assessments. The development of the first training course of this type represents an important advancement in this field.
PMCID: PMC3138427  PMID: 21639871
17.  Process evaluation of a web-based intervention aimed at empowerment of disability benefit claimants 
The objective of this process evaluation study was to gain insight into the reach, compliance, appreciation, usage barriers, and users' perceived effectiveness of a web-based intervention This intervention was aimed at empowerment of disability claimants, prior to the assessment of disability by an insurance physician.
Reach was determined by registering claimants exposed to the study's invitation brochures, and by comparing trial participant characteristics with non-participants and nationwide claimant data. Compliance was registered by analyzing weblogs, which were automatically collected during the period of the trial. This made it possible to analyze individual use of the intervention. Appreciation, usage barriers, and users' perceived effectiveness were assessed using an online questionnaire that was sent to participants from the intervention group, 6 weeks after enrolment.
Only 9% of the target population enrolled in the internet program. Because of selective enrolment, more females, higher educated claimants, and less ethnical minorities were reached. Compliance was ambiguous: out of the 123 participants randomized into the intervention group, a significant proportion (33%) did not use the intervention at all, while, at the same time, many participants (32%) used the intervention for more than two hours (i.e. in approximately two weeks). Overall satisfaction with the intervention was good. Claimants perceived the intervention most effective in increasing knowledge, while also a fair amount of users perceived the intervention effective in gaining right expectations or being able to communicate better with their physician.
The uptake of the intervention was disappointing. Specifically, the poor reach and compliance of the intervention resulted in a small proportion of the target population using the intervention as intended. Improvements in the implementation process are desirable to increase the reach and compliance and, thereby possibly, the impact of the intervention.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3048479  PMID: 21324172
18.  The dimensional structure of the functional abilities in cases of long-term sickness absence 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:99.
The health problems that working people suffer can affect their functional abilities and, consequently, can cause a mismatch between those abilities and the demands of the work, leading to sickness absence. A lasting decrease in functional abilities can lead to long-term sickness absence and work disability, with negative consequences for both the worker and the larger society. The objective of this study was to identify common disability characteristics among large groups of long-term sick-listed and disabled employees.
As part of the disability benefit entitlement procedure in the Netherlands, an insurance physician assesses the functional abilities of the claimant in a standardised form, known as the List of Functional Abilities (LFA), which consists of six sections containing a total of 106 items. For the purposes of this study, we compiled data from 50,931 assessments. These data were used in an exploratory factor analyses, and the results were then used to construct scales. The stability of dimensional structure of the LFA and of the internal consistency of the scales was studied using data from 80,968 assessments carried out earlier, under a slightly different legislation.
Three separate factor analyses carried out on the functional abilities of five sections of the LFA resulted in 14 scale variables, and one extra scale variable was based on the items from the sixth section. The resulting scale variables showed Cronbach's Alphas ranging from 0.59 to 0.97, with the exception of one of 0.54. The dimensional structure of the LFA in the verification population differed in some aspects. The Cronbach's Alphas of the verification population ranged from 0.58 to 0.97, again with the exception of the same scale: Alpha = 0.49.
The differences between the dimensional structures of the primary data and the earlier data we found in this study restrict the possibilities to generalise the results. The scales we constructed can be utilised to produce a compact description of the functional abilities of groups of claimants in the Netherlands. Moreover, the matching work demands can be used to identify jobs low on those demands as being the most accessible for the specific type of disabled employees, particularly severely disabled individuals.
PMCID: PMC3046913  PMID: 21320333
19.  Effectiveness of an Interactive Website Aimed at Empowerment of Disability Benefit Claimants: Results of a Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial 
Introduction The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of an interactive website aimed at empowerment of disability claimants, prior to the assessment of disability by an insurance physician. Methods A randomized controlled trial was conducted. Claimants applying for a work disability pension after being sick-listed for 104 weeks, were randomized into either an intervention group or control group. Participants who were randomized into the intervention group were able to logon to the website, which mainly consisted of five interactive modules aimed at increasing knowledge, self-awareness, expectations, self-efficacy, and active participation. Participants from the control group were directed to a ‘sham’ website with commonly available information only. The primary outcome was empowerment. Secondary outcomes included coping, knowledge, claimant satisfaction, perceived justice, and physician satisfaction. Outcomes were assessed at baseline, 2 days before the disability assessment, as well as 1 day after, 6 weeks, and 4 months after the disability assessment. Results Claimants were randomly assigned to the intervention group (n = 123) or a control group (n = 119). The intervention had no significant short- and long-term effects on empowerment, but the intervention increased claimants’ knowledge significantly compared to the control group. Claimant satisfaction with the disability assessment interview and claimant perceived justice on the outcome of the assessment were lower in the intervention group (statistically not significant). Furthermore, the intervention had a significant negative effect on claimants perceived procedural justice. Conclusion Although knowledge increased significantly, the intervention was not successful in reaching its primary target, that is, to increase levels of empowerment among disability claimants, prior to the assessment of disability.
PMCID: PMC3173646  PMID: 21258848
Empowerment; Physician-patient relationship; Internet; Disability assessments; Medical disability claimants
20.  Intervention mapping for the development of a strategy to implement the insurance medicine guidelines for depression 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:9.
This article describes the development of a strategy to implement the insurance medicine guidelines for depression. Use of the guidelines is intended to result in more transparent and uniform assessment of claimants with depressive symptoms.
The implementation strategy was developed using the Intervention Mapping (IM) method for alignment with insurance-medical practice. The ASE behavioural explanation model (Attitude, Social Influence and Self-Efficacy) was used as theoretical basis for the development work. A literature study of implementation strategies and interviews with insurance physicians were performed to develop instruments for use with the guideline. These instruments were designed to match the needs and the working circumstances of insurance physicians. Performance indicators to measure the quality of the assessment and the adherence to the guidelines were defined with input from insurance physicians.
This study resulted in the development of a training course to teach insurance physicians how to apply the guidelines for depression, using the aforementioned instruments. The efficacy of this training course will be evaluated in a Randomized Controlled Trial.
The use of IM made it possible to develop guideline support instruments tailored to insurance medical practice.
PMCID: PMC3022701  PMID: 21208413
21.  Relation Between Perceived Health and Sick Leave in Employees With a Chronic Illness 
Introduction: To improve work participation in individuals with a chronic illness, insight into the role of work-related factors in the association between health and sick leave is needed. The aim of this study was to gain insight into the contribution of work limitations, work characteristics, and work adjustments to the association between health and sick leave in employees with a chronic illness. Methods: All employees with a chronic illness, between 15 and 65 years of age (n = 7,748) were selected from The Netherlands Working Conditions Survey. The survey included questions about perceived health, working conditions, and sick leave. Block-wise multivariate linear regression analyses were performed and, in different blocks, limitations at work, work characteristics, and work adjustments were added to the model of perceived health status. Changes in regression coefficient (B) (%) were calculated for the total group and for sub-groups per chronic illness. Results: When work limitations were added to the model, the B between health and sick leave decreased by 18% (5.0 to 4.1). Adding work characteristics did not decrease the association between health and sick leave, but the B between work limitations and sick leave decreased by 14%, (5.3 to 4.5). When work adjustments were added to the model, the Bs between sick leave and work limitations and work characteristics changed from 4.5 to 3.4 for work limitations and from 2.1 to 1.9 for temporary contract and from −0.8 to −1.0 for supervisor support. Conclusions: The association between health and sick leave was explained by limitations at work, work characteristics, and work adjustments. Paying more attention to work limitations, characteristics and adjustments offers opportunities to reduce the negative consequences of chronic illness.
PMCID: PMC3098364  PMID: 21153689
Chronic disease; Work; Sick leave; Health; Confounding factors
22.  The association between physical activity and neck and low back pain: a systematic review 
European Spine Journal  2010;20(5):677-689.
The effect of physical activity on neck and low back pain is still controversial. No systematic review has been conducted on the association between daily physical activity and neck and low back pain. The objective of this study was to evaluate the association between physical activity and the incidence/prevalence of neck and low back pain. Publications were systematically searched from 1980 to June 2009 in several databases. The following key words were used: neck pain, back pain, physical activity, leisure time activity, daily activity, everyday activity, lifestyle activity, sedentary, and physical inactivity. A hand search of relevant journals was also carried out. Relevant studies were retrieved and assessed for methodological quality by two independent reviewers. The strength of the evidence was based on methodological quality and consistency of the results. Seventeen studies were included in this review, of which 13 were rated as high-quality studies. Of high-quality studies, there was limited evidence for no association between physical activity and neck pain in workers and strong evidence for no association in school children. Conflicting evidence was found for the association between physical activity and low back pain in both general population and school children. Literature with respect to the effect of physical activity on neck and low back pain was too heterogeneous and more research is needed before any final conclusion can be reached.
PMCID: PMC3082686  PMID: 21113635
Spinal pain; Daily activity; Lifestyle; Systematic review
23.  The cost-effectiveness of the RSI QuickScan intervention programme for computer workers: Results of an economic evaluation alongside a randomised controlled trial 
The costs of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms are high. In order to decrease these costs employers implement interventions aimed at reducing these symptoms. One frequently used intervention is the RSI QuickScan intervention programme. It establishes a risk profile of the target population and subsequently advises interventions following a decision tree based on that risk profile. The purpose of this study was to perform an economic evaluation, from both the societal and companies' perspective, of the RSI QuickScan intervention programme for computer workers. In this study, effectiveness was defined at three levels: exposure to risk factors, prevalence of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms, and days of sick leave.
The economic evaluation was conducted alongside a randomised controlled trial (RCT). Participating computer workers from 7 companies (N = 638) were assigned to either the intervention group (N = 320) or the usual care group (N = 318) by means of cluster randomisation (N = 50). The intervention consisted of a tailor-made programme, based on a previously established risk profile. At baseline, 6 and 12 month follow-up, the participants completed the RSI QuickScan questionnaire. Analyses to estimate the effect of the intervention were done according to the intention-to-treat principle. To compare costs between groups, confidence intervals for cost differences were computed by bias-corrected and accelerated bootstrapping.
The mean intervention costs, paid by the employer, were 59 euro per participant in the intervention and 28 euro in the usual care group. Mean total health care and non-health care costs per participant were 108 euro in both groups. As to the cost-effectiveness, improvement in received information on healthy computer use as well as in their work posture and movement was observed at higher costs. With regard to the other risk factors, symptoms and sick leave, only small and non-significant effects were found.
In this study, the RSI QuickScan intervention programme did not prove to be cost-effective from the both the societal and companies' perspective and, therefore, this study does not provide a financial reason for implementing this intervention. However, with a relatively small investment, the programme did increase the number of workers who received information on healthy computer use and improved their work posture and movement.
Trial registration
Trial registration number: NTR1117
PMCID: PMC2994546  PMID: 21070621
24.  Associations between VO2max and vitality in older workers: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:684.
To prevent early exit from work, it is important to study which factors contribute to healthy ageing. One concept that is assumed to be closely related to, and therefore may influence healthy ageing, is vitality. Vitality consists of both a mental and a physical component, and is characterised by a perceived high energy level, decreased feelings of fatigue, and feeling fit. Since VO2max gives an indication of one's aerobic fitness, which can be improved by increased levels of physical activity, and because feeling fit is one of the main characteristics of vitality, it is hypothesised that VO2max is related to vitality. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the associations between VO2max and vitality.
In 427 older workers (aged 45 + years) participating in the Vital@Work study, VO2max was estimated at baseline using the 2-km UKK walk test. Vitality was measured by both the UWES Vitality Scale and the RAND-36 Vitality Scale. Associations were analysed using linear regression analyses.
The linear regression models, adjusted for age, showed a significant association between VO2max and vitality measured with the RAND-36 Vitality Scale (β = 0.446; 95% CI: 0.220-0.673). There was no significant association between VO2max and vitality measured with the UWES (β = -0.006; 95% CI:-0.017 - 0.006), after adjusting for age, gender and chronic disease status.
VO2max was associated with a general measure of vitality (measured with the RAND-36 Vitality Scale), but not with occupational health related vitality (measured with the UWES Vitality Scale). The idea that physical exercise can be used as an effective tool for improving vitality was supported in this study.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2992516  PMID: 21062484
25.  Software-recorded and self-reported duration of computer use in relation to the onset of severe arm–wrist–hand pain and neck–shoulder pain 
In both science and media, the adverse effects of a long duration of computer use at work on musculoskeletal health have long been debated. Until recently, the duration of computer use was mainly measured by self-reports, and studies using more objective measures, such as software-recorded computer duration, were lacking. The objective of this study was to examine the association between duration of computer use at work, measured with software and self-reports, and the onset of severe arm–wrist–hand and neck–shoulder symptoms.
A 2-year follow-up study was conducted between 2004 and 2006 among 1951 office workers in The Netherlands. Self-reported computer duration and other risk factors were collected at baseline and at 1-year follow-up. Computer use at work was recorded continuously with computer software for 1009 participants. Outcome questionnaires were obtained at baseline and every 3 months during follow-up. Cases were identified based on the transition within 3 months of no or minor symptoms to severe symptoms.
Self-reported duration of computer use was positively associated with the onset of both arm–wrist–hand (RR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1 to 3.1 for more than 4 h/day of total computer use at work) and neck–shoulder symptoms (RR 1.5, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.0 for more than 4 h/day of mouse use at work). The recorded duration of computer use did not show any statistically significant association with the outcomes.
In the present study, no association was found between the software-recorded duration of computer use at work and the onset of severe arm–wrist–hand and neck–shoulder symptoms using an exposure window of 3 months. In contrast, a positive association was found between the self-reported duration of computer use at work and the onset of severe arm–wrist–hand and neck–shoulder symptoms. The different findings for recorded and self-reported computer duration could not be explained satisfactorily.
PMCID: PMC3112366  PMID: 21045214
Computers; neck; upper extremity; longitudinal studies; epidemiology; ergonomics; musculoskeletal; longitudinal studies; video-display units

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