The COVID-19 pandemic has hit every country across the globe a hard way, and no state has been spared of its aftermath. However, studies show there is an almost 60% difference in the disease burden per capita in between the US states that have experienced the lowest and highest disease burdens.
One of the major lessons learned during the COVID-19 outbreak is that health and the economy are inevitably linked with each other. Shockingly, the real GDP dropped by almost 11% due to the pandemic.
A report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) said that by considering health as an investment and not as an expense can help in enhancing health and wellness across America and also boost economic growth.
MGI Wellness Report Findings
In its studies, MGI reported that premature deaths or lost employee productivity owing to poor health and wellbeing cost the United States almost 16% of the real GDP, which accounts to almost $3.2 trillion. It is also estimated that without taking any proper action, this number might only get worse.
A previous study showed that lifestyle-related factors were causing the highest number of chronic health disorders, making up to the major portion of the healthcare costs. The 5 primary disorders that seemed to have a huge economic impact were – musculoskeletal disorders, mental health issues, neurological diseases, health concerns due to substance use, and diabetes and kidney-related diseases.
Apart from the state-level per capita disparity of almost 60%, other factors are affecting the disease burden and related health and wellbeing outcomes, like – age, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity.
Based on its studies, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) concludes that by expanding the existing approaches that are proven to improve employee health and wellness, it is possible to reduce the disease-related burdens by almost 1/3rd by the year 2040.
By investing in the right employee benefits and wellness programs, businesses can outweigh the healthcare costs. Studies show that for every $1 invested towards health and wellbeing initiatives, it can bring in an economic benefit of $4 for the American economy.
By implementing the cost-effective interventions, US disease burden can be reduced to a great extent. However, this can happen only when significant changes are made to the healthcare provisions and also in society.
Here are the 4 key imperatives to bring about this change as per the MGI study.
Reframing Health as a Growth Lever
Considering health as a growth lever, in other words treating it as an investment and not just an expense can help in making the precise decisions. Making the right investments can help with long-term health choices, reduce healthcare costs, and also aid in starting a wholesome journey of holistic wellness.
Focusing on Health and Preventive Care
The current focus is on illness, and it is necessary to shift the attention towards health and disease prevention. According to studies, in the OECD countries, only 2 – 3% of the healthcare budgets are allocated towards preventive care. As it is said prevention is better than cure, it is crucial to stir up the focus from the illness mindset to more of health and preventive care. This change can involve employee wellness programs at the workplace, health promotion activities, early intervention of diseases, and adequate preventive care. Also, driving the importance of therapies and volunteering for mental wellness could be of help. A study showed that volunteering alone could add up to $4 billion, i.e., from $9 billion to $13 billion in societal value by 2040.
Using Digital Health and Wellness Technology
Advancing technology can help in addressing many health and wellness challenges. Right from the latest digital health solutions to the innovative interventions for efficient identification, prevention, and cure of diseases, wellness technology can help in managing it all. However, to make the best of it, these tools and innovations must be sustainable and scalable, to be able to combat any new health threats like the novel COVID-19.
Prioritizing Health and Wellness for All
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has prioritized health and wellness like never before. With the employees having to work remotely, and it affecting their overall health and wellbeing, small, medium, and large businesses are now working towards improving employee wellness. Be it the physical fitness or mental health, employers are now making health and wellness a fundamental agenda of their working policies. By implementing a well-designed corporate wellness program, employers can deal with long-term prevention of health diseases and promote healthier living habits, which not only improve employee health and productivity, but also reduce healthcare costs.
Making it an agenda to foster employee health – physical and mental could potentially be a game-changer in the societal environment and the economy. Also, working to establish workplace wellness can promote employee wellbeing. Although making use of the available opportunities is not easy, the resultant outcomes could well be worth the genuine efforts put in.