Editorial: Will Business Take the Carrot?

April 13, 2005
As health care costs climb, workplace wellness programs become an increasingly attractive tool for businesses and safety managers.

Health care costs this year will hit nearly $2 trillion. Benefits experts predict health care costs will increase 8 percent in 2005. Towers Perrin Health Care Cost Survey notes that while this appears to offer some relief from recent annual increases, "closer analysis reveals that, dollar for dollar, the cost increase in 2005, at an average of $582 per employee, is still unsustainable for most employers."

While health care cost increases are spurred by a complex web of factors, one thing is clear: Americans and their employers are paying a high price for a lifestyle that is frequently unhealthy. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 129 million Americans are overweight or obese, a condition that puts them at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and 60 percent of Americans do not get enough exercise. In combination, these problems account for 400,000 preventable deaths a year.

Dr. Charles Schutz, chief medical officer for Destiny Health, points out the disparity between the national statistics cited above and how we see ourselves. In a study of 1,004 adults, 67 percent categorized themselves as being "physically active" and only 30 percent thought they were overweight.

"The saddest part of the survey findings is that nearly eight of 10 respondents said they would take better care of themselves if they had a life-threatening problem," said Schutz. In fact, their lifestyles are pointing them in exactly that direction.

Last November, NIOSH Director John Howard said any coordination between those protecting employee safety and those promoting health is "often more the result of coincidence than intention." He called for a more ambitious view of occupational health that helps ensure not only that workers go home as healthy as when they came to work but that they "return to work the next day as safe and healthy as they can be."

As our cover story on DaimlerChrysler shows, many organizations are stepping up their workplace wellness efforts. But given the brutal math of health care, you have to wonder why all workplace safety and health managers are not embracing this opportunity.

Sponsored Recommendations

10 Facts About the State of Workplace Safety in the U.S.

July 12, 2024
Workplace safety in the U.S. has improved over the past 50 years, but progress has recently stalled. This report from the AFL-CIO highlights key challenges.

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!