Business Actions for a Healthy Society

The Business Actions for a Healthy Society offers guidance for business on how to “move the needle” on community health in the U.S. and positively impact the social determinants of health, especially with respect to building back better after the pandemic. The Actions place particular emphasis on addressing the needs of groups that are suffering disproportionately due to the forces of systemic racism.

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Eight Business Actions

Access to healthcare icon

Action 1

Ensure Access to Healthcare

Provide access to affordable, quality, comprehensive direct health and family care to direct and indirect workers and their families, and communicate clear expectations to suppliers.

  • A healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Employees with health insurance are out sick from work fewer days; America’s businesses could gain an estimated 293 million working days by improving employee health
  • Business that offer health insurance as part of their employee benefits package are able to attract more qualified applicants than those who don’t
  • Health insurance for employees is linked with reduced levels of stress, more long-term decision-making, and increased cognitive ability, as well as increased physical health — all of which are crucial components of higher organizational performance
  • The average American household spent almost $5,000 per person on health insurance in 2018, roughly twice as much on health care as they did in 1980
  • U.S. residents in the country's lowest income decile spend 35% of their pre-tax incomes on health care, compared with 3.5% of U.S. residents in the country's highest income decile
  • The number of U.S. adults with employer-sponsored health plans who are deemed underinsured tripled between 2003 and 2018

Economic security icon

Action 2

Build Workforce Economic Security

Create good jobs—including offering paid leave, living wages, financial health, and benefits that meet the basic needs of direct and indirect workers and their families—that reduce poverty and build wealth

Action Roadmap Benefits Scorecard

  • Financial insecurity, characterized by a lack of basic necessities and access to a safety net, causes cognitive distress, which measurably affects employee physical and mental health, including leading to decreased productivity and performance, and increased injury rates
  • A study of employers in LA found lower rates of labor turnover, absenteeism, and overtime rates and higher rates of training among 75 living wage contractors when compared to 210 similar non-living wage firms
  • More than 80% of employers involved in the London Living Wage Program (LLW) believed that the LLW had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff. Almost 75% of employees also reported increases in work quality
  • A detailed study of tax returns in the US showed relative intergenerational mobility to be stagnant since the 1970s and absolute income mobility on a downward path since the 1940s
  • The net worth of working-class and poor households has declined in real terms by 20% due to an escalating accumulation of debt, with 25% of Americans lacking any savings for retirement
  • White workers already earn around 1.5 times more than their Black peers with the same educational background; an average Black American family has only 10% of the wealth of a typical White family

Well-being icon

Action 3

Promote Mental Well-Being and Resilience

Cultivate a work environment that supports and provides resources for positive mental health—psychological, emotional, and social—for all workers so that mental health achieves parity with physical health

Action Roadmap

  • People seeking inpatient care for behavioral health issues are 5.2 times more likely to be relegated to an out-of-network provider than for medical care. Mental health treatment accounts for 2.4% of total health care spending
  • Investments in prevention are recouped by improvements in productivity over the long run for employers that offer and provide coverage for mental health services
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability and premature death. It can result in about five missed workdays and 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months, costing the U.S. 200 million lost workdays annually, resulting in $17-44 billion in lost productivity overall
  • One in five adults (47.6 million Americans) experience mental illness, and conditions such as anxiety and depression are the second-most common reasons for workplace disability claims
  • The surge in economic insecurity and unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the stress and anxiety many workers face
  • Mental health is expected to worsen due to increasing demands placed on workers, the precariousness of working in the gig economy, the loneliness of remote work, and anxiety about job loss due to automation

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Action 4

Invest in Life-Long Learning

Empower all workers to pursue life-long learning and skill development to seek purpose in their work, enabling them to find fulfillment and upward mobility while keeping pace with technological changes

  • Over the arc of a much longer career, workers will need continuous training and education – to burnish skills needed in their careers, to keep pace with technology change, and to acquire the new skills needed for emerging job opportunities
  • There is increasing evidence that learning and a sense of purpose promote brain health longevity and performance. Having a larger goal in the workplace helps to combat the stress that comes with change, and it can also improve emotional recovery when things go wrong
  • In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14% of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence
  • Black American workers are disproportionately concentrated in the kinds of roles that are most likely to be affected by automation. The half-life of a learned skill in our current economy is now a mere five years
  • Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force don’t have a college degree

No cases studies yet.

Healthy workplace icon

Action 5

Provide a Healthy Workplace

Maintain a safe, inclusive, and productive working environment for all workers in response to the modern world of work that covers both the prevention of harm and promotion of health

  • Over 4 million workers nationally suffer from work-related diseases and about two-thirds of those are away from work for four working days or longer as a result
  • The physical environment as an aspect of the workplace environment has direct impact on the human senses. Poor indoor air quality can reduce the performance of office work by 6–9%
  • Companies that build great workplaces also improve human physical and mental health and lifespan. Workplace ergonomics protects the health of workers by reducing injury risk and removing inefficiencies. Unhealthy work environments cost society $130 billion and 125,000 deaths each year
  • After work-related cancers, circulatory diseases, and certain communicable diseases, accidental occupational injuries are the fourth main cause of work-related fatalities
  • Workers in the informal economy are much more likely than formal workers to be exposed to poor working environments, low safety and health standards, and environmental hazards, and to suffer poor health or injury as a result
  • Racial or ethnic minorities have disproportionately higher rates of fatal occupational injuries and death due to occupational disease than Whites

No cases studies yet.

Wellness icon

Action 6

Innovate for Wellness

Design and invest in accessible and affordable products, services, and programs that support healthy customers and societies

  • Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to stay healthy. The market for health and wellness products and services is estimated at $267 billion in the U.S.
  • 81% of global consumers considered the ability of a product to help them stay healthy as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, yet only 42% believe that companies are currently meeting this need
  • Demand for healthier products and services has driven major growth opportunities for businesses across many sectors, including for example the rise of wellness tourism, wearable fitness technology, organic materials and ingredients, and rise in nutritionally balanced meal delivery services and low-calorie beverage options
  • A majority of U.S. adults (81.6%) and adolescents (81.8%) do not get the recommended amount of physical activity
  • 71% of Americans age 20 and over are overweight or obese
  • Across age and gender, Americans' average daily fruit and vegetable consumption does not meet intake recommendations
  • Research finds that higher prevalence of obesity among low-income and minority populations is related in part to their limited access to healthy foods

Community health icon

Action 7

Support Community Health

Promote good health for all in a community by addressing social determinants to health that improve the social and environmental conditions of places where people live, learn, work, and play

  • Healthy communities are better places for both employees and consumers to live and work. Businesses pay both direct and indirect costs when the communities they operate in are unhealthy, including higher health plan premiums, workers’ compensation, disability insurance, costs associated with absenteeism, employee retention and turn-over, and low morale, and lower reliability of business suppliers and partners
  • Businesses can contribute through direction action, philanthropy, employee volunteerism, and advocacy to community efforts to, e.g. provide safe and affordable housing, access to education, public safety, availability of healthy foods, local emergency/health services, and efforts to increase civic participation
  • In the U.S., the neighborhood or county where we live can predict our life expectancy as well as how we will die, even after adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic factors
  • Social and environmental conditions and personal behaviors account for 80-90% of modifiable health outcomes
  • All three of the leading causes of death in the U.S. are chronic diseases tied to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and poor diet (cancer, heart disease, and chronic respiratory disease), demonstrating the importance of non-medical determinants to health

Healthy society icon

Action 8

Advocate for a Healthy Society

Promote good health for all in a community by addressing social determinants to health that improve the social and environmental conditions of places where people live, learn, work, and play

  • Healthy People 2020 has found persistent disparities in U.S. population health outcomes and behavioral risk factors by socioeconomic status, education levels, race, and other personal characteristics
  • Disparities in health across racial and ethnic groups result in about $35 billion in excess healthcare expenditures, $10 billion in illness-related lost productivity, and nearly $200 billion in premature deaths annually
  • Of the nation’s 47 million uninsured, half are of minority backgrounds, although they represent only one-third of the U.S. population. Lack of insurance contributes to disparities in both access to health care and quality of care
  • An estimated 20 million Americans have turned to crowdfunding campaigns through websites like GoFundMe to pay for medical expenses for themselves or someone in their households

More Business Action

We’re seeking companies to ideate and collaborate with us! Let us know if you’re interested in learning more and participating in thought and action leadership on these topics.

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Business Actions for a Healthy Society Playbook

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