Fort Worth, located in Tarrant County, is an economic engine for the state of Texas. The city has an incredible pull for businesses looking to expand or relocate. In 2015, the Fort Worth Chamber brought nearly $3 billion in new investment to the area. As the 16th largest city in the nation, Fort Worth prides itself on being fast-growing, economically strong, culturally rich, and diverse.
But the city's competitive edge lies in more than just offering a strong economy with great jobs at companies like Facebook and American Airlines. As early advocates for the Health Means Business movement, Fort Worth business and community leaders know that there is a direct connection between individual and community health and economic prosperity.
Data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) 2015 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps shows that Tarrant County’s Quality of Life ranking improved dramatically since 2010, including a 6% reduction in years of productive life lost, largely through improvements in activity levels and reduction in smoking levels. While health outcomes are profoundly affected by individual choices, Tarrant County’s improvement shows that a strategy to address the context in which those choices are made is also important. Healthier cities tend to be more productive cities, with a higher rate of community engagement. "Communities have an opportunity to make an impact on the lives of their citizens, employees and future leaders by prioritizing health. In Fort Worth, we know that a healthy city is a stronger, more productive, and competitive environment. Plus, when you get down to it, there is a critical link between the health of our citizens and our ability to compete in the global workforce,” says Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, largely preventable productivity losses linked to employees who miss work cost employers $225.8 billion, or $1,685 per employee, each year. Employers cite even higher costs in tangible financial terms and in lost opportunity. A significant portion of what makes up our health is influenced by our environment—where we live, work and play—meaning health is more closely correlated with our ZIP code than our genetic code. For years, Fort Worth has made community health a priority, starting with city initiatives like FitWorth, and Healthways' Blue Zones Project, a national education-oriented organization designed to help people live longer lives. FitWorth is an active campaign designed to create a culture of wellness through physical activity and mindful eating. Together, with the support of the mayor’s office, local business leaders, educators, retailers, and families, Fit Worth creates an environment of health and wellbeing that is designed to serve the community for years to come.
Health Means Business Champion Mike Sweet, President, Ben E. Keith Foods of Fort Worth mentions the cost savings as well as the topline benefits, “In our industry, you would typically say that the 22,000 items that we sell to restaurants are our biggest asset. However, at Ben E. Keith Company, our employees are and always have been, our biggest asset. The investment that we make in our Blue Zone program to promote a healthy lifestyle and environment for our employees is well worth it and speaks to our 110-year culture and our family-like atmosphere. It also makes financial sense as studies show that companies spend almost 12-times more in medical plan expenses on [their] least healthy participants than [they spend] on more healthy participants."
Employers interviewed by the Health Means Business campaign cited five reasons to invest in individual and community health: enhancing economic competitiveness; strengthening recruitment and retention; reducing costs, increasing productivity; and building community loyalty to a company. Fort Worth’s experience bears these reasons out, providing evidence that America's health is our wealth and future—and a critical element of our ability to grow strong communities and businesses. Fort Worth’s leaders know that the challenges we face are complex, but building a culture of health is all about taking that crucial first step.