AOHC Conference: Spreading the Religion of Health and Productivity

May 3, 2005
The development of new tools to make the business case for greater investments in workers' health on and off the job was a major focus of an early breakout session at the American Occupational Health Conference (AOHC) held in Washington May 1-5.

"At a certain point an organization either gets it or they don't: The recognition of health not as an expense but as an investment in productivity is really almost like a religious conversion," said Kent Peterson, president of Occupational Health Strategies Inc.

In order to help convert senior management, Peterson and Raymond Fabius presented a new "health and productivity self-assessment tool" at a May 2 AOHC presentation titled, "Advances in the Field of Health & Productivity."

In a follow-up presentation, Anther Williams, vice president of worldwide health and safety for Johnson & Johnson, indicated his organization is one that has gotten the message, while also integrating safety on and off the job into its program.

The new global Johnson & Johnson effort is focused on encouraging healthy and safe behaviors by workers both on and off the job.

The development of the self-assessment tool came in response to what the presenters said was the request of many organizations interested in promoting the wellness of their employees, but who don't how to start. The effort should be completed and ready for wide dissemination by July, according to Pamela Hymel, corporate medical director at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc.

The tool consists of a self-assessment questionnaire divided into five parts:

  • Philosophy and Approach, to determine if the organization recognizes the potential impact that the health of its employees can have on productivity and medical costs
  • Organizational Structure, Alignment & Resource Commitment
  • Goals & Metrics of current health care costs, productivity, absenteeism as well as goals for future improvement
  • Intervention Results and Savings of short-term results
  • Integration/Trend, containing questions about measuring health and productivity improvements over a multi-year time frame

In an interview after the meeting, Fabius said in his view, companies need to work through the five steps sequentially, although he conceded that some organizations have not done so.

In his presentation, Williams supported the notion that recognition by top management is the critical first step.

In order to succeed, he explained, the commitment of senior management is essential, and to do that, "We have to make the business case that health and safety is part of a successful business strategy."

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