How to do an effective health risk assessment (HRA) for your employees November 1st, 2012, by Ken Buckley

Health risk assessments (HRAs) or personal health assessments (PHAs) are the most important tools in any workplace health and wellness program.

Without them, you don’t know the problems, you can’t target your activities, and you can’t tell if your program is working

This is the 8th blog in a series  which shows you how to deliver a best practice workplace health and wellness program. In this part of the series, we’re looking at the 4 step process for a successful health and wellness program (see an overview here in A proven process for developing and implementing a successful workplace health and wellness program.) Previously we looked at Step 1: Plan (see How to show leadership support for your workplace health & wellness program; and The 3Cs of creating employee support for your workplace health program. Today we start on Step 2: Assess.

For a successful workplace health and wellness program, you need to assess two things: behaviour and culture.

The best way to assess employee behaviour is through a personal health assessment or PHA, sometimes called a health risk assessment or HRA.

Why invest in a PHA?

PHAs are powerful little things. While they may only take your employees around 5 minutes to fill in, they will give your health & wellness program immense drive, energy and direction.

1. Evidence of need

The most important benefit of a PHA is to give your senior management evidence of the need to change. There, in black and white (and all sorts of colourful graphs!) they can see the rising cost of health to their organisation – the potential cardiovascular disease and obesity, the stress-levels and the mental health issues, all contributing to absenteeism, presenteeism and lost productivity.

The PHA helps you gather crucial data for developing a workplace health program that’s directly targeted to address these issues and boost your organisation’s productivity.

2. Evidence of change

Secondly, when you repeat the PHA year on year, it provides you with a clear, unequivocal evidence of the success of the program.

A good PHA will not only show each employee the improvements they’ve made in their health and lifestyle habits, but will give you a really comprehensive aggregate report, which shows the impact of all these individual changes across the organisation.

You’ll be able to see how your Lose4Life campaign has resulted in a reduced obesity risk,  for example, or how your Good Night campaign has improved sleep patterns.

3. Awareness raising

Last but not least, a PHA will raise employees’ awareness of their own health, and any harmful habits and behaviours.

Remember the process of behaviour change? Your workplace health program should move your employees from “not thinking” to “thinking” about their health. Then, as outlined in Four factors for behaviour change: best practice in workplace health and wellness,  you can raise their awareness of the problems, and show them the easy solutions.

What should a good PHA include?

A best practice PHA looks at all aspects of health and lifestyle behaviours, going beyond the physical to look at things such as stress, job satisfaction and relationships. Make sure your PHA assesses:

  • Health behaviours: such as physical activity, sitting, diet and sleep
  • Addictive behaviours: such as smoking and alcohol
  • Emotional health: stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Job satisfaction
  • Health & productivity: job performance and absenteeism
  • Relationships: loneliness and social support

Success factors of a good PHA

Research into the most successful types of assessment has found that the best PHAs share the following criteria:

  • It provides immediate, actionable feedback to each employee, with a tailored plan of action.
  • There’s a way to reach everyone: both online and pen & paper options
  • It includes your organisation’s brand: employees know and trust its from their employer, and they get the message that their employer cares about their health.
  • It gives both individual and aggregate reports: Coordinators and managers can see detailed reports easily and quickly, without having to collate or analyse data themselves.
  • It’s short: a PHA shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to complete
  • It’s easy, with easy to understand feedback
  • It’s not preachy – the feedback and actions should be encouraging and positive, and nudge towards action.

In our next blog, we look at the other part of Step 2: Assess – how to assess organisational culture.


As you would guess, Healthworks’ Personal Health Assessments meet all these criteria! Call us on 1300 90 10 to find out more about our PHAs or contact us here.

PHAs are also a core part of Healthworks’ new health and wellness system called WellSteps. Give us a call (1300 90 10 90) to find out more about this evidence based behaviour change system that will improve your employees health and boost your productivity.


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