Making the Business Case: Exploring the Potential for Employer Investments to Improve Health and Well-Being
CitationPerry, Kathryn. 2019. Making the Business Case: Exploring the Potential for Employer Investments to Improve Health and Well-Being. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
AbstractIn the United States, there is a heavy burden of chronic disease - heart disease, mental illness, cancer, respiratory disorders and diabetes. Despite outsized spending on health care, this burden continues to increase among adults and children. A key reason is that the vast majority of health spending goes to medical care rather than the social determinants of health (SDOH).
A large body of public health research demonstrates that the largest influences on common chronic diseases are health behaviors and the social and environmental conditions in which people live, work, and play. Work to generate investments in the SDOH has largely focused on healthcare, government, and non-profit sectors. While these efforts are critical, the scope of the problem suggests the need to engage a broader range of actors.
One sector with the potential to improve the SDOH that has not been widely engaged is the business community. Employers influence health and well-being through a broad set of direct and indirect mechanisms - including access to and quality of health insurance for workers and their families, income and financial stability, physical and psychosocial work conditions, social connections, and sense of purpose.
Through a project with a large, regional bank, the potential for expanding the scope and impact of business investments in health and well-being is explored. A framework is presented that supports the identification of evidenced-based, health-related investments material - relevant or significant - to core business activities and goals. Specific opportunities for the bank to invest are identified and forces pushing and pulling the business to act are discussed. Finally, generalizable lessons about how to translate knowledge in these areas to effectively implement and maintain employer investments in healthy communities are presented.
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