A few days ago, Karen posted a piece in the HRI Community (and the blog entry below) about child obesity and the impact it is having on employer’s healthcare costs and employee productivity. Last night, there were two articles about this obesity issue in my reading stack. One was a Fortune interview with Dr. Toby Cosgrove, the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic (http://bit.ly/aARfSr). Among other items, the article covered Cosgrove’s approach and attitude about managing a $5.5B company and the healthcare issues facing America. You’ve probably seen the numbers but Cosgrove commented that smoking, diet and lack of exercise cause 40% of premature deaths in the US, they contribute 70% of the chronic diseases that equates to 75% of the cost of healthcare. Big Numbas! The second article was from Business Week (http://bit.ly/cbxlhg) and covered a couple of the companies that are launching wellness programs to address the health of employees’ dependents. Good stuff. And, then again this AM, the Sunday Trib has an article titled “Fat Fatigue” (http://bit.ly/dCEh0W).
Personally, I am against policies that limit the freedom for people to choose how they lead their lives (obviously within the confines of the law). I miss the occasions when I could go to the Chop House, have a nice steak and smoke a cigar (All in moderation). But, when these individual choices have an impact on others, as the case is in ever increasing healthcare costs for businesses, something has to change. I love the incentive-based wellness program. They have always seemed like a no-brainer to me but many CEOs have worried about the impact they can have on their corporate culture. I can’t imagine that if done right that impact can only be positive. Think about the benefits to be had for the employees and when dollars going to healthcare coverage can be channeled to business development, R&D, and marketing. Will this be Easy Money? No. Are Wellness Programs a silver bullet? No. But they are great start.