“Partnerships between public health and the private sector are the future of good business and good health in our communities,” said Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, MA, president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, at an event launching a new report on partnerships between public health agencies and businesses. Titled “Good Health is Good Business” and produced by the de Beaumont Foundation and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the report identifies characteristics of successful partnerships and makes specific recommendations for health organizations and businesses that are ready to partner.
The event was held June 28 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In addition to Castrucci, the featured speakers were Anand Parekh, MD, chief medical advisor to the Bipartisan Policy Center; Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, the Surgeon General of the United States; and Diana Farrell, president and CEO of the JPMorgan Chase Institute. Their remarks were followed by a panel discussion with Rex Archer, MD, the director of health at the Kansas City, Mo. Department of Health; Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation; Bill Purcell, former mayor of Nashville, Tenn.; and Betsy Price, mayor of Fort Worth, Texas.
Castrucci said that when people talk about business and health, the conversation often focuses on employee wellness programs. But while employee wellness programs can make a real difference, he said, their benefits are limited because they don’t address the community factors that shape the health of their employees, families, and customers.
“To impact the metrics important to the business sector, like reducing health care costs, decreasing absenteeism, and increasing presentism, we need to go beyond the traditional employee wellness programs,” he said. “The next frontier in employee wellness moves beyond the walls of any one business to focus on community health.”
The next frontier in employee wellness moves beyond the walls of any one business to focus on community health.
He closed by saying the report’s authors hope the report will inspire more partnerships and a shared vision among business leaders and public health professionals. “We could make so much progress if both sectors started with the goal of creating communities where every person has a chance to achieve their best health and live their optimal life. It’s about creating communities where policies are in place that support everyone’s health.”
Dr. Adams emphasized the connections between healthy communities and healthy businesses. “We know communities shape health, and health is essential to prosperity,” he said. “It can be a virtuous cycle, and far too many communities, the cycle goes the other way. We don’t invest in health. Business suffers. Health suffers. And you have a downward spiral. Business and public health need to be interested in both, because you can’t have one without the other.”
In addressing the conditions that most impact a person’s health, he said, “Environmental, social, economic, physical factors shape the opportunities we have and the behaviors that we adopt. I 100 percent believe in personal responsibility, but I also, 100 percent, believe that the choices you make are completely dependent on the choices that lie in front of you. Right now, so much is at risk because many of our communities and their residents aren’t as healthy as they could be. We aren’t putting them in the position to make healthy choices, and it’s more than just our future prosperity that’s at risk. It also impacts our national security.”
The choices you make are completely dependent on the choices that lie in front of you. Right now, so much is at risk because many of our communities and their residents aren’t as healthy as they could be.
Dr. Adams pointed out the troubling statistic that 70 percent of the 18- to 24-year-olds in this country are ineligible for military service because they can’t pass the physical tests, can’t meet the educational requirements, or have a criminal record. “Put another way,” he said, “our nation’s poor health isn’t just a matter of chronic disease. We are literally a less safe country right now because we’re an unhealthy country. We must do better.”
The high costs of healthcare affect the bottom line for business in numerous ways, he said. Business expenses for healthcare “aren’t just diverted away from company profits, but from critical funding priorities like job creation, wage increases, and research and development. Healthcare expenses also limit funds available for infrastructure, education public safety, and other national and local priorities. So even if you don’t care one iota about health, if your top priority is crumbling bridges, if your top priority is a free college for everyone, then you need to make sure you’re investing in health care because that money that would go to pay for those other things is being sucked away from those other priorities because of healthcare costs.”
But he discussed what would be possible with the needed investments in healthy communities. “When you have healthy people who are physically, socially, and economically healthy, they in turn become healthy, productive, present employees. They become consumers who have more money to spend and less likely to need expensive downstream social supports, less likely to become incarcerated.”
He encouraged leaders of all sectors to “help create a future where communities are built so people can more easily make healthy choices and where businesses invest in those communities as a way of achieving a healthier workforce and a healthier bottom line.”