At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we care about the health and wellness of American communities. The businesses in our network know that in order to have economic growth, they need healthy employees and healthy consumers. Yet, the key to health often lies in areas that we don’t associate with medical treatment. In fact, according to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps social-economic factors like employment, education, and income account for 40% of a community’s health. These are precisely the issues that the private sector is primed to address.
We are excited to announce that the Chamber Foundation is expanding its commitment to the health of American communities with a new national-level partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), America’s largest foundation devoted to health. With the help of a grant from the RWJF, the Chamber Foundation will embark on a multipronged two-year campaign to promote Better Health Through Economic Opportunity. The campaign involves a research project, national and local media campaigns, toolkits to help local businesses participate in the future of health and education, and forums hosted at regional chambers of commerce in 10 communities.
The regional forums will be a key part of the campaign. National conversations and partnerships are necessary but not enough. We need a grassroots campaign to get communities talking about their health and economic challenges. Regional chambers are the perfect places to hold these conversations because they will bring everyone, especially businesses, into the dialogue.
Today, we announced the first three regional chambers of commerce we will visit—the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, and the Fort Worth Chamber. We are pleased that these communities have stepped forward to bolster the private sector’s engagement in health and economic opportunity. We will be naming other communities that will host forums. Stay tuned.
In fall 2016, the Chamber Foundation will host a major summit to tie together the findings from the regional forums. In addition, an awards ceremony will be held to celebrate the most innovative business efforts to improve the physical, financial, and spiritual health of their communities. Look for more details about these great events. With leaders from around the country attending, you will want to be part of the conversations.
At the highest levels of leadership, the Chamber Foundation and the RWJF are committing to a new and deeper level of collaboration between the health and business communities. The private sector holds tremendous influence to bolster a greater culture of health in America. Businesses are where many of us spend the most time, and jobs offer us the means to buy food, take care of our health, and improve our fitness. Few organizations better represent the American business community than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Foundation showcases the many ways that businesses engage in communities around the country.
Marc DeCourcey is vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Corporate Citizenship Center.