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the business ROI of health: edelman health barometer 2011 findings

October 12, 2011

in health care,wellness

we know employers want employees and their families to make healthier choices. we now know that as employees and consumers we want businesses to do more to help us. that’s one of the key findings from the edelman health barometer 2011, a global study on health behaviors and attitudes. edelman hosted a sneak preview for roughly a dozen health bloggers last week, of which i was one.

it’s this symbiotic health relationship between business and individual, as employee and consumer, that will be of the utmost interest to employers. (they should also look at the data about what motivates us to make healthy changes.) what edelman’s information shows is that an employer’s investment in their employees’ and our general health does more than manage health care costs, absenteeism and productivity. it also affects their competitiveness, brand reputation, pricing strategy, and investor and employer attractiveness.

employers get lower scores on lifestyle

edelman developed a set of questions to explore what or who most impacted our overall health, and whether that impact was positive or negative. respondents routinely cited themselves, their family and friends, and their local community as having a positive impact. things got a little sketchy when it came to their employer. the scale started sliding toward negative impact, particularly when it came to lifestyle in the US and environment and lifestyle globally.

edelman also found that respondents expect businesses to use their strategies, practices and policies to positively affect our public health. what this signals is that as consumers, we’re evaluating companies’ actions in the marketplace, as an employer and as a key influencer in public policy. unsurprisingly, we want companies to come clean about the health of their products. perhaps more surprising, we’ll judge employers according to whether they grant employees the time to take care of their health (82%), support the health of the communities where they operate(72%), or contribute their own or their employees’ expertise to improve public health (72%). we’ll express our dissatisfaction with a business’ strategies or policies with our pocketbook, our CV and our mouths.

the opportunity costs for health

i’ve spoken and written about what i consider to be the seven levers of workplace wellness. the last two levers are environmental and political. they’re the two that get shortest shift these days, but this study should ignite another look. employers who become a health agent and advocate for their citizens (employees) and the world’s will reap positive payback in talent wars, brand management, shareholder investment and market growth. this is a new way of talking about health to employers—a way that cuts beyond managing health care costs and into their deepest life vein.

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