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Employee Benefits

How the Corporate Determinants of Health Impact Your Employees

Dr. Scott Conard
Dr. Scott Conard
Holmes Murphy

As a family doctor, I’ve spent my life teaching people how to manage the personal determinants of health, such as exercise, diet, relationships, meditation, sleep, health literacy, cancer screening, health insurance, and so forth. And with COVID-19, we’ve all heard a lot about the social determinants of health and how the U.S. healthcare system did not support its citizens in its response.

For corporations, trying to solve the social determinants of health is daunting. It will take the government and communities, working together with the private healthcare industry to overcome these challenges. But appreciating and acting on the corporate determinants of health is vital and not only saves money and builds corporate culture, it also add years to the life and life to the years of your employees and their family members.

The Personal Determinants of Health

The challenge is how to engage and change habits that decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers, and other diseases occurring or worsening in our bodies. The key is taking a look at lagging indicators like weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and the numbers that tell you where you are today in your health. Evaluating your leading indicators to see how you are doing pulling healthy habits into your life predict how well you will do in the future.

The good news is that the art of changing a person’s lifestyle is becoming increasingly understood. More and more data are pointing to significant important activities and mindsets that result in improved wellbeing and longer lives.

The Social Determinants of Health

The importance of social determinants of health are being talked about a lot more these days. In fact, Healthy People 2030 has identified five significant social determinants that are the backbone of their strategy for the next 10 years. These include economic stability, education access and quality, healthcare access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context. In each of these domains, they have goals that are set for multiple levels of a community. A vital part of the strategy is businesses picking up the mantle and running with the aspects they can influence.

The Corporate Determinants of Health

There are several key areas that determine whether employees are empowered or disempowered when caring for their health that corporations directly control. These include:

  1. Education (not only understanding, but also how to navigate personal health, benefits, and the healthcare system)
  2. Healthcare quality and access
  3. Work culture, safety, and environment
  4. Culture, policies, and engagement
  5. Plan design and affordability

In each of these areas, corporations have the power to decrease barriers and increase the ease of use and functionality.

A high deductible health plan that requires an individual to pay the first $2,500 of pharmacy or medical expenses when the average employee cannot pay a $400 surprise bill creates tremendous stress and a situation where employees and their families put off proper care.  Ultimately, while this may save money in the short run, it leads to high catastrophic expense, death, and disability.

With a relatively straightforward approach, your business can remove these barriers, increase the ease of access, and redivert money you’re spending on other programs to leverage the corporate determinants of health and improve the culture, cost, health, and wellbeing of your employees significantly.

At Holmes Murphy, we look at 16 key variables that point to where a business has opportunities to streamline and improve their corporate determinants. Eight of them are contractual, and eight are clinical.

We’ve learned from COVID-19 that just taking an actuarial approach is not enough; a clinical approach is also necessary and makes a huge difference in employee satisfaction, cost, and longevity of your company.

If you’d like to learn more about these variables or our approach, or you simply want to learn more about this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’d love to help you in any way that we can.

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