“Every company should be a healthcare company,” argued Dr. Fik Isaac, who is the chief medical officer for Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions, Inc., on BSR’s recent Sustainability Matters webinar, “The Value of Population Health.” Dr. Isaac joined Michelle Chuk Zamperetti, manager of community health programs at GE Healthymagination, to share why population health matters to their companies and how they have built effective strategies to improve health among their employees, communities, and customers.

Dr. Isaac’s comments reflect that healthcare is no longer the exclusive domain of traditional healthcare companies or the medical world: Disruptive innovations in health information, products, and services, in addition to rising healthcare costs, are elevating health to the top of corporate agendas. Leading companies across sectors are investing in health as a business strategy to manage risks and capture opportunities to secure the healthiest and best talent, improve productivity, and identify new growth markets. 

The webinar highlighted five lessons for companies to build effective population health strategies:

  1. Focus on preventionThe economic impact of the five leading non-communicable diseases—cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and mental ill-health—could total US$47 trillion over the next 20 years, according to a World Economic Forum study. These costs can destroy competitive advantage, says Zamperetti, who explained that GE already spends approximately US$2 billion annually on healthcare for its more than 500,000 active and retired employees. Tackling non-communicable diseases requires a shift from treatment to prevention through lifestyle and behavioral changes at home and at work. Companies are critical partners in driving individual and collective behavior change and improving access to the tools needed to adopt healthy practices.
  2. Calculate the ROI and discuss long-term paybackThere is growing evidence of the positive ROI and long-term benefits of population health investments. A study found that Johnson & Johnson’s health promotion program saved the company US$565 per employee per year (in 2009 dollars), and had an ROI of US$1.88-US$3.92 for every dollar spent on the program. Capturing and communicating this data is essential to gaining leadership support and ensuring effectiveness of investments.
  3. Align employee and community health goalsAligning employee and community health goals is essential for creating an environment that drives healthy decisions and behaviors. This belief drove GE to develop its Healthy Cities program, which focuses on driving sustainable change in communities in some major U.S. cities through investments in personal health, the healthcare delivery system, and community health.
  4. Build a culture of healthFor health and wellness investments to work, they need to reflect the fact that health is very personal and so need to be a part of company culture and values. This requires tangible incentives but also inspiring, committed leaders willing to stand behind ambitious company goals, model behavior change, and share their own health and wellness journey. Companies like Johnson & Johnson see health and wellness as an integral part of their sustainability strategy and corporate culture.
  5. Lead collaboratively: As GE learned through its Healthy Cities program, real change requires companies to see themselves as part of the fabric of communities. Its initial program in Cincinnati focused largely on improving the healthcare delivery system, but the company quickly realized that improving population health would require listening to local stakeholders and addressing a broader set of issues. To be successful, GE not only needed to lead where it had the right tools and expertise, but also collaborate with and support other employers and stakeholders to lead.

This webinar was the first in a series organized by the Business Coalition for Population Health. Access information about the Business Coalition for Population Health webinar here.