LIVING WELL: How Employee Health Helps Communities - Owensboro Health

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Published on August 25, 2016

LIVING WELL: How Employee Health Helps Communities

What are you doing to make waves in your community?

Think about what happens when you toss stones into a lake. Toss a small stone, or even a few, and you can see the ripples. Toss many stones, especially some big ones, and you can make waves.

Employers throughout the region, as well as everyone in the workforce, should take that example to heart. The health of the workforce throughout this area doesn’t just affect individuals. It has ripple effects and that can have big impacts on the economic health of our communities.

Count The Money

Can you imagine taking $2.58 trillion and then just throwing it away? You don’t have to imagine it. That’s reality.

In 2014, healthcare spending in the U.S. was $3 trillion, and 86 percent of that money went to care for chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Nearly all of those problems will never go away, meaning we’re spending money on problems we cannot cure or solve.

That’s the bad news. Fortunately, there’s also good news. It’s much less expensive to prevent these problems or to treat them early on, which we can do for the vast majority of chronic conditions. That’s the goal of population health, saving money by spending it wisely and addressing problems before they become permanent or severe and require costly treatment or hospital stays.

Population Health Is Team Work

Think about health in the context of a household. When one person in the home is sick, everyone is affected. It’s the same in the workplace. That ripple effect is felt not only by other employees, but also the bottom line of the business and the employee’s wallet, because of lost productivity, the cost employers and employees pay for healthcare expenses, etc.

That same situation works in reverse, too. Employees tend to be happier and more productive when they are healthy, and so are their families. If you have enough families like this, then you’re on your way to having a healthier community.

Just from a local perspective, this can seem overwhelming. Owensboro Health’s 14-county coverage area in Kentucky and Indiana includes about 392,000 people spread out over nearly 6,000 square miles. That’s why employers and businesses are so important for population health. They’re the place to start if we want to make the biggest waves.

Getting Down To Businesses

Investing in population health, especially that of employees, is a smart business decision. Your efforts don’t have to complex or time-consuming. The key is focusing on prevention. Workplace wellness initiatives don’t just save money. When done right, they can make $2.50 (or more) for every dollar spent.

The challenge is in the delivery. Employers shouldn’t just be giving employees information and telling them what they should do. That makes it more about the employer and less about the employee. It’s about telling them why they should care, and more importantly removing any obstacles that might stand in their way and then giving them some incentive now to go along with the rewards they’ll see later.

It might seem confusing, complex or even daunting. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. If you want to know more about how population health strategies can help you, One Health @ Work, part of Owensboro Health’s One Health medical group, is hosting September lunch-and-learn sessions to help you engage your employee population. The topic for our September 13 or September 14 sessions is injury prevention. To get more info or register, simply call Lori Quinn at 270-688-6198. Together, we can work on building a healthier, stronger community.

Kelly Schlachter is executive director of One Health Solutions and director of Employer Services at Owensboro Health.

This article originally appeared in the Owensboro Health Messenger-Inquirer.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering and the only hospital in the world to be designated a Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International, Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprising over 180 providers in 25 locations, a certified medical fitness facility, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center. Owensboro Health has been recognized for outstanding care, safety and clinical excellence by The Joint Commission, U.S. News & World Report and Becker’s Hospital Review. As the largest employer west of Louisville, Owensboro Health has 4,088 employees, and in FY 2015 saw 18,380 inpatient admissions and 823,072 outpatient encounters. A committed community partner, Owensboro Health provided grants of $702,924 in the last year to health, social service, education and arts agencies across the region. For more information, visit