Former Manager, BSR
Health is not just for healthcare companies: All businesses have an important role to play in community health. In the United States, close to 80 percent of one’s health is determined by where you live and work. Leading companies both invest in employee health and well-being and go beyond their four walls to make an impact in local communities. By doing so, they are creating business value and a competitive advantage.
Already, a wide range of companies are taking action to improve health outcomes in their communities through various channels, such as expanding employee wellness programs to family members, partnering with local organizations like schools to reach community members, promoting healthier choices and/or behaviors to customers, leveraging technology to benefit vulnerable or underserved populations, and investing in affordable housing projects near corporate headquarters. Together, BSR’s Healthy Business Coalition and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have developed a collection of case studies to demonstrate how companies are taking action on community health and to assess the landscape of corporate healthy business program metrics. These case studies supplement a series of resources in the Healthy Business Toolkit that support companies in identifying opportunities and developing programs and partnerships to improve the health of employees, customers, and communities.
Beyond charitable donations, philanthropic giving, and employee volunteerism, businesses are making investments in community health by integrating health and well-being into core business practices across four scopes of action:
Create a workplace that values health
Businesses have an opportunity to serve as a model for health by creating a workplace that values positive health outcomes for employees as well as exemplifying corporate environmental responsibility.
Johnson & Johnson’s HealthForce 2020 is an integrated initiative to empower at least 100,000 employees by 2020 toward a personal best in health and well-being at work, home, and in their communities by enhancing their core employee health and well-being programs and services. The program measures employee engagement and utilization, in addition to business metrics (like recruitment, retention, performance, and promotion) and health outcomes.
Differentiate products and services by taking a health lens
Businesses have an opportunity to not only mitigate negative health impacts but to also improve health outcomes of current products and services. In addition, they have the tools to develop accessible solutions for critical health and well-being needs.
Every year, around 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments due to lack of reliable transportation. Uber Health, a HIPAA-compliant technology solution, helps to address this problem by helping patients and caregivers get to and from care. Providers also use Uber Health to transport crucial staff to work. The program aims to eliminate access to transportation as a barrier to receiving health care services.
Another great example is The Walt Disney Company’s Healthy Living program, which seeks to improve child nutrition and well-being by providing food options in parks, products in stores and online, recipes, and physical activity ideas that meet Disney’s nutrition guidelines. The program tracks the number of servings of fruits and vegetables provided to kids every year and the percentage of guests that make the healthier choice.
Partner with community organizations to have a bigger impact
Businesses have an opportunity to incubate more meaningful health programs and partner with community organizations to improve community health outcomes of a company’s key communities and focus populations. Partnerships with community organizations can enhance a business’s reputation and help achieve more than they could alone.
The One for Good Initiative is an exemplary collaboration among Consumer Goods Forum members, such as General Mills, PepsiCo, Walmart, and others, in partnership with a local public-private collaborative, Healthy Washington County. The collaboration supports community wellness by empowering consumers to make healthier choices, from food and exercise to smoking cessation and medication adherence.
Take a stand against health inequality through public policy engagement
Businesses have an opportunity to influence the cultural dialogue and policy debates by promoting health equity through public policy engagement as well as public communications that serve to promote health.
Few companies have engaged in policy and advocacy like Etsy has in its effort to increase economic security for the gig economy. Etsy is working to foster economic security for its sellers and other workers in the gig economy via targeted research on the future of work. Further, the company is supporting advocacy to U.S. policymakers to streamline employment benefits and to minimize the impacts of income variability.
We need more U.S. companies to see the strategic significance of healthy business programs and leverage their core business assets to make a positive impact.
Across these four scopes, it is encouraging to see companies across industries invest in improving the health and well-being of employees, consumers and communities. Still, we need more U.S. companies to see the strategic significance of healthy business programs and leverage their core business assets to make a positive impact. Our findings show that most companies have not yet gone beyond tracking outputs and/or are solely tracking metrics on outcomes or impacts for internal purposes. As such, there are limited outcome and impact metrics from companies’ community health programs. By measuring and publicly disclosing outcome metrics, companies can increase the rigor of the program, quantify how the company is making positive change, create opportunities for collaboration by sharing information, and encourage peers to do more.