Why Health Means Business - Literally

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, hosted our first Health Means Business National Summit on Feb. 15-16, 2017 in Washington, D.C. to convene business and health leaders to discuss our growing movement to improve America’s health.

The Health Means Business campaign is spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber Foundation in conjunction with our regional, state and local chambers. We’ve joined a chorus of organizations across the country to take the lead in creating healthier workers and healthier communities – including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a premier national philanthropy dedicated solely to health.

At first blush, the question arises, “What can businesses do to help our workforce and American communities get healthier?” And the answer is simple:

Improving community wellness isn't just for health care companies. And it isn't just about employee wellness. It’s about people—and how to make their lives healthier, happier, and more productive. We believe that every business can play a leadership role in bolstering the health of their customers, their communities, and our current and future workforce.

American businesses, and our cross-sector partners, have the talent, teamwork skills, and tenacity to tackle this challenge head on, and we have a vested interest. Employers have a significant financial investment in the health of their workers, as well as their customers and communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that largely preventable health conditions, including injury, absenteeism (employee or family), and lost productivity cost the average U.S. business approximately $1,700 per year per employee.

Another factor is international competitiveness. America’s ability to compete on the world stage requires efficiency, creativity, and the stamina and drive to win. Performing at our best requires good health, not only on the part of executives, but for every member of the team. Competition can also raise the stress level in an organization. Wellness includes mental health, and ways of reducing and coping with stress. Taking a holistic approach to improving the health of our workforce and communities is important for our long-term growth and prosperity.

Finally, today’s employers and workers believe it is highly desirable and a principal contributor to strong work performance if they can live in a vibrant, healthy environment. Research by Gallup in 2016 (“How Millennials Want to Work and Live”) shows that, for millennials, it isn’t just about the paycheck anymore; they want to see that their company values their overall well-being.  This includes being healthy, as well as being able to lead a purposeful life, in an active community, with deep social ties and financial stability.

American businesses are uniquely positioned to make a difference by moving from what were once socially-responsible business policies to creating a business-led culture of health in their workplace and communities.

The Health Means Business campaign has looked beyond the scope of our traditional partners to government, major sports, and nonprofit organizations – and entrepreneurs and innovators of all kinds – to help create healthy and safe communities with access to nutritious food, safe neighborhoods and better schools.  We have been grateful for the enthusiastic support of this campaign by governors, mayors, and other elected officials.

Having a productive workforce is critical to the vitality of American businesses, communities and our country. America’s health is our wealth and future – a critical element of our ability to grow strong communities and businesses. The challenges we face are complex, but together, we can make a huge difference.