The American workplace continues to be at a crossroads. Global economic competition demands increased productivity; technology is rapidly influencing the dynamics of industries and marketplaces; and major demographic shifts are changing the face of the American workforce.
At the same time, work-related illness and injuries continue to impose a tremendous burden. Each day, an average of 137 people die from work-related illness and an additional 17 die from work-related injuries. According to the National Safety Council, work injuries cost Americans more than $132 billion a year – or $970 per worker – in lost wages, lost productivity, health care expenses and other costs.
And now a new factor – chronic disease – has entered the picture. As the percentage of older workers grows in the United States, it is expected that chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer will cost employers heavily as they provide medical benefits for employees and absorb the costs of long and short term disability claims. One study found that of the nation's $2 trillion in medical spending, 75 percent goes toward care for chronic conditions.
Caught in the middle of this continuously evolving workplace, employers grapple with a growing issue: The impact of worker health on company productivity. As the link between health and productivity has been studied a new discipline has emerged, known as Health and Productivity Management.
Simply defined, Health and Productivity Management, or HPM, is a concept that directs corporate investment into interventions that improve employee health and business performance. It can also be described as the integrated management of health risks, chronic illness, and disability to reduce employees' total health-related costs, including direct medical expenditures, unnecessary absence from work, and lost performance at work - also known as "presenteeism."
A growing body of evidence suggests that worker health can be measured and better managed for increased profitability and organizational effectiveness. More and more employers have begun to embrace this concept as the relationship between the health of workers and the bottom line of American business has become increasingly clear.
Proponents of HPM view the workforce as human capital, which should be managed with the same level of focus and interest that is applied in the management of financial capital. They recognize the value of managing human capital by focusing on health in the workplace environment. With healthier employees, companies perform better.
At the heart of the HPM process is measurement of workplace health costs, accurate evaluation of the factors that are driving those costs, and the creation of health enhancement programs and strategies for workers. Occupational and environmental physicians can play a pivotal role in helping the workplace understand these concepts and the relationship between health and productivity.
HPM promotes better individual health, which in the long-term improves the overall health of our nation and the stability of our health care system. HPM becomes a win-win, benefiting both the employee and the employer.
Bottom line: good health is good business, and HPM helps achieve both.
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Companies that build a culture of health by focusing on the well-being and safety of their workforce may yield greater value for their investors, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The stock market performance of companies that had received ACOEM’s Corporate Health Achievement Award (CHAA), which annually recognizes the healthiest and safest companies in North America, was conducted at HealthNEXT LLC and analyzed by lead authors Raymond Fabius, MD, and R. Dixon Thayer, and colleagues. Companies that receive the award must be engaged in demonstrable and robust efforts to reduce health and safety risks among their employees.
CDC Worksite Health Scorecard
The CDC recently released a Worksite Health ScoreCard which is a tool designed to help employers assess and improve health promotion in their worksites. Using a validation study by the Emory University Institute for Health and Productivity, the HSC has been determined to be a valid and reliable tool for employers to use in assessing health promotion programs aimed at preventing heart disease, stroke and related conditions among employees.