Reflections on Donaldson, Gooler & Weiss’ Promoting health and well-being through work: Science and practice

The subject of work has surfaced in several other personal and academic discussions within institutional ethnography (that is extremely difficult for me to understand) and, especially, in feminist discourse (Silvia Federici, among others) as it relates to the subject of women’s work in and out of the home.  What the authors add is something additional that I have not yet seen: The treating of the chores and school homework of children as work.  The authors opening treats children as something rarely see, as human beings with brains, with feelings, with agency.  This is powerful.  Given the definition of health promotion from, the American Journal of Health Promotion, “to enhance awareness, change behavior, and create environments that support good health practices,” I wonder how health and health promotion would be rated in the United States and how it would fare compared to other country’s programs?

Within the area of Work Site Health Promotion, the focus on the overall population is lost while focusing on employees only and unfortunately outside the normal sphere of health promotion. It is as if the employers focus on health is only concerned with their employee’s attendance on the job and healthy enough to perform the job, not on their overall well-being, physically and emotionally.  The authors cite several instances of difficulty to assess the success of various work health promotion.  Sadly, it is obvious to me from my observations in the work world, that the businesses I have observed as an employee care nothing for the emotional and physical health of their employees except as it relates to their bottom line.  Some major fortune 500 corporations are changing in this area (ex. Google and to a lesser extent, Bloomberg), but the majority from my vantage point, are not in spite of the isolated initiatives in Southern California and elsewhere.  I can only ask, if these initiatives are successful in Southern California among smaller businesses and the under- and unemployed, why have they not expanded elsewhere? Granted things need to change in this area, and I am here to help initiate that change, if businesses are not shown how this can benefit them and their sacred bottom line (my emphasis), they will not focus on the health promotion and psychosocial health of their employees and the citizens in their communities.

While the authors’ study revealed several statistical details of the strained psychosocial health of those polled, including increased automation, a lack of health insurance, and official versus unofficial unemployment (where individuals are interested in working, can’t find a job, and are not officially on the unemployment statistical rolls), as well as the lack of cooperation of certain communities and companies.  Again I have to ask, what programs were implemented in conjunction with these that helped the communities and businesses understand how implementing health promotion programs for their employees and citizens will benefit them as well. Additionally, I realize that this paper dates to 1998, and it maybe beyond their scope, but I wonder why Universal Basic Income (UBI) was not discussed in light of changing technologies and the computer elimination of jobs and part-time employment?


Donaldson, S. I., Gooler, L. E., & Weiss, R. (1998). Promoting health and well-being through work: Science and practice. In X. B. Arriage & S. Oskamp (Eds.), Addressing community problems (pp. 160-194). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


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