DoH to address BPO health issues

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The Department of Health (DoH) plans to educate business process outsourcing (BPO) employees on health issues as some studies reveal people working in the industry suffer from various diseases.

In partnership with multinational company One Johnson and Johnson (J&J), the DoH want to address the health challenges of the BPO industry, said to employ about 1.3 million employees as of 2016.

“BPO employees represent a significant portion of our country’s workforce today, thus it is imperative that we address every health risk that they face in their work including lack of sleep, job-related stress which they try to counteract with unhealthy lifestyles, among others,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial in a recent news briefing.

“These are all risk factors that can lead to serious health conditions, such as respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health diseases,” she added.


She noted that the BPO industry is still not reached by the Philippine Health Agenda. J&J president and Managing Director to the Philippines Jeffrey Go in the same news briefing said the partnership with the DoH will make people working in the BPO industry be aware of their lifestyle.

“Increasing incidences of respiratory diseases, lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes and even depression. Our goal in the BPO health program is to start the conversation with every BPO agent to help them live a healthier and more vibrant life,” Go said.

A study made by the International Labor Organization Asia-Pacific entitled “Business Process Outsourcing in the Philippines: Challenges for Decent Work” in 2016 showed “high levels of stress common in the BPO sector, particularly in contact centers.” Call center agents entertain 78-100 calls per day and respond to at least 91 percent of the calls within 22 seconds, and then were given five to six minutes to address clients’ requests, the study also showed.

In the same study, health problems experienced by employees include headache, fatigue, back pain and voice problems which are made worse by working night shifts since most BPO operations serve the American and European markets causing disruption in work-life balance and psychological well-being.

The study further revealed the higher incidence of HIV/AIDS compared to other sectors of the labor workforce.

This was supported by the study made by the University of the Philippines Population Institute in which it said,

“Philippine workers in contact centers, compared to workers in other sectors, faced a higher probability of exposure to HIV/AIDS; the stress they experienced in the workplace, among other factors, could encourage risky sexual behavior.”

In an International Labour Office-funded study by the Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University validated the prevalence of risky behaviors among call center agents, including early sexual activity, infrequent condom use and promiscuity.

The BPO Healthcare Program will be implemented starting in the last quarter of this year and will comprise different activities aimed at ensuring that every BPO agent has access to quality healthcare information either through their doctors or nurses, or through digital platforms directed at them. The program will be sustained through 2018 with the ultimate vision of engaging every single BPO agent throughout the country.

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