Transforming Healthcare One Employee at a Time

Transforming Healthcare One Employee at a Time

05.30.14 | By Kenneth Thorpe, Ph.D.

Ken Thorpe, Chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD)

Businesses know the impact of poor health and see first hand how some communities are affected more than others. Truly improving health takes time, effort and investment from all of us. With one out of two Americans having at least one chronic condition, the costs of chronic disease are staggering and affect every community, every business, and every person. Treating people with chronic conditions accounts for 84 percent of what we spend on healthcare. In 2011 this totaled more than $2 trillion, but doesn’t even include those costs associated with lost productivity – estimated at more than $1 trillion in loss to our economy each year.

There is an undeniably strong link between the wellness and vitality of an organization and the health and wellness of its employees – resulting in employees’ increased job morale, satisfaction, commitment and performance. These are all issues that the PFCD and our partners care about and all agree we can and must do a lot better.

At the root of healthcare reform is the need for understanding the determinants of health – obviously lifestyle is a major component, but access to healthcare, environment and basic human biology are other important factors. In addition, income and education also play a significant role.

By acknowledging and digging deeper into the differences we see it becomes more possible to minimize the gaps and develop solutions. Businesses have a large stake in achieving this, because a healthy workforce is a competitive advantage. Similarly, having a stake in a healthy community is important because it affects your workforce and customers.

While a great deal of focus is placed on medical care in terms of coverage costs and benefit design, promotion of prevention and overall health can often tend to be a lesser priority. It is imperative that this perspective gets shifted in order for the true, tangible value of workplace wellness to take hold.

Poor health has an extremely broad impact on business – disability, Worker’s Compensation, health-related retirement, absenteeism AND presenteeism, overall productivity, health of dependents – and all of these factors add costs.

No doubt, we have our work cut out for us, but there are many opportunities to make strides towards healthier outcomes and bottom lines. Events promoting community health and wellness where a business is located can also have significant impact on the wellness culture of an organization. Appropriately using information to bridge the gaps and develop successful strategies is key. There are many existing efforts that focus in on these factors in addition to medical care to improve health equity and promote wellness. These efforts are working, but it can’t stop there. It is critical for businesses to share knowledge and best practices about what they are doing and what is and isn’t successful in improving health outcomes in the workplace.   

With that I invite you to join me on Thursday, June 26, as National Employee Wellness Monthcomes to a close, for Chronic Disease, Productivity & Implications for Employers, where our distinguished panel will highlight these important issues, the implications as well as the impact that private sector solution can have on overall productivity.

By better educating management and providing best practices that are attainable and sustainable we can advance an agenda that may just transform our sick care system to a true HEALTHCARE system. 


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