TRENDS: The Los Angeles Forum Adds Fuel to Health Means Business Movement

Let’s face it, California is a trendsetter. Whether it’s inspiring the world with larger-than-life movie blockbusters or churning out innovative ideas, California can’t help but be a big deal. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ latest data, California is the 6th largest economy in the world. Its economy is growing at a faster rate than that of the U.S. and with nearly 40 million, California is one of the nation’s most diverse states.

Los Angeles, in particular, is the second most populous city in the U.S. with just under 3.8 million (2010 U.S. Census). It’s no wonder that it’s home to leading community development initiatives and is recognized for innovation in other areas, including university-community partnerships and transit-oriented development.

Which is why, on October 6, prominent business and community leaders gathered to discuss how together they could create a healthier community in Los Angeles. Partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the tenth forum as part of the Health Means Business campaign to promote better health through economic opportunity.

Featured speakers included: David Rattray of the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce; Shuma Panse of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Lewis C. Horne of the Greater Los Angeles-Orange County Region and CBRE, Inc.; Elyse Cohen of the U.S. Chamber Foundation and Health Means Business Campaign; Tamika Lang of Global Corporate Citizenship at Boeing; Sam Polk, CEO of Everytable; Roberta Tinajero-Frankel from Kaiser Permanente; and Tyrone Bland from Herbalife, and others.

Lewis Horne of CBRE discussed his vision for an environment that not only improves the workplace, with the goal of attracting and retaining talented employees, but it enhances quality of life. Horne shared that by implementing steps to provide a positive environment for employees -- such as ensuring clean air and pure water, encouraging exercise and good nutrition, implementing activity-based work programs, and rewards systems to encourage employee participation -- unexpected results at CBRE occurred: a measurable uptick in the bottom line!

Another key speaker, Sam Polk, discussed his social enterprise, Everytable. His belief is that healthy food is a human right and that “health is a collective responsibility.” Many communities in the U.S. are “food deserts” – places where there is little access for healthy, affordable food – and they experience high rates of obesity, diabetes, and stress. Polk created Everytable to make good, healthy food available to everyone, regardless of economic means.

Shuma Panse, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recognized Polk and his inspiring work promoting food equality and healthy communities. Panse’s presentation focused on defining a “culture of health.”

Another highlight was Elyse Cohen, former Deputy Director of Let’s Move! under First Lady Michelle Obama. Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, recognized Cohen for her leadership in workplace transformation.

The dependencies between health and economic development are many. Healthy employees are more productive employees. And, of course, consumers and community members are potential future employees –and employers.

Promoting health within the workplace doesn’t just stop there. It extends into the community, leading to unprecedented economic prosperity.

So, what can you do? As a first step, sign the Health Means Business pledge and become a part of our growing Champions Network!