Major health equity initiative targets American workforce

A trio of American organisations has teamed up to tackle healthy inequities in the US workplace with science and insights – and they have 10 million employees in their sights

An initiative to help advance health equity in the US workforce and remove barriers to workplace participation has been launched by the American Heart Association, in collaboration with the Deloitte Health Equity Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation.

Health equity is the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to live a healthy life. However, health and wellbeing are highly individualised experiences, with economic, environmental and social conditions – including years of structural discrimination and systemic barriers – contributing to disparities in health outcomes.

Health inequities can not only be detrimental to employees’ emotional, psychological and physical health but they can also place a significant economic burden on employers.

Guidance and tools

To improve employee wellbeing and reduce health inequities nationwide, the Health Equity in the Workforce initiative has been designed to combine insights from diverse business leaders and the latest science to develop guidance and tools that can advance health equity in the workplace.

The initiative aims to help employers make informed decisions on the health and wellbeing of their employees, while helping build trust and positioning themselves as an employer of choice.

Work will include convening employers and community organisations to take action, providing tools to measure the impact of health equity strategies and recognising organisational achievements to incentivise change across the business landscape.

By 2025, the initiative aims to enable positive health outcomes for 10 million US workers, roughly 10 per cent of the workforce who earn less than the national median income.

Practical framework

‘The evidence is clear,’ says Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association. ‘Building a workplace where all employees can thrive is both a moral and business imperative. The Health Equity in the Workforce initiative connects business leaders with a practical framework for tackling workforce health inequities and a network of leaders to amplify their impact.’

Research shows that addressing the drivers of health inequities can help employers improve workplace wellbeing, increase employee engagement and productivity, and lower healthcare costs. Health inequities account for roughly US $320 billion in annual US healthcare spending and counting, according to recent analysis from Deloitte.

Lynne Sterrett, managing principal at Deloitte Consulting, explains: ‘Addressing health inequities is everyone’s responsibility, and we won’t achieve a healthier or more equitable future if we accept it as solely a healthcare organisation’s responsibility to solve.’

‘We can achieve better health by giving leaders the tools and training they need to take bold, broad action…’

She adds: ‘Initiatives like these can help employers make an exponential impact across their workforce by tailoring efforts to those who need support the most. We all stand to benefit from building a healthier workforce, including employees, their families, and even the organisation’s bottom line.’

Johnny C. Taylor Jr, president and chief executive of the SHRM, notes: ‘Executives are uniquely positioned to challenge health inequities across all facets of their influence – by giving leaders the tools and training they need to take bold, broad action, we can achieve better health within our organisations’ walls, in our communities and, ultimately, throughout our country.’

Andrew Sansom is editorial director of SALUS Global Knowledge Exchange, a content partner of WORKTECH Academy.
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