WASHINGTON — Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released a new report, Healthier Americans for a Healthier Economy, featuring six case studies focused on the relationship between health and economic development. The report examines how health affects the ability of states, cities and towns to attract and retain employers, and how workplace and community wellness programs help improve productivity and reduce health spending.
“High rates of chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, are among the biggest drivers of U.S. health care costs and they are harming our nation’s productivity,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH, and Chair of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. “Workplace wellness and community prevention programs are a win-win way to make a real difference in improving our health and bottom line all at once.”
According to the report, more than half of all Americans currently live with one or more chronic disease, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. High rates of these diseases, which in many cases are preventable, are associated with increasing health care costs.
The case studies in the report feature first-hand accounts from business executives, elected officials and public health leaders in Minnesota, Texas, Nashville, Indiana, San Diego and Hernando, Mississippi, where employers and communities are making the connection between improving health and improving the economy.
For instance, William Paul, Nashville, Tenn. Health Commissioner, noted, “Nashville wants to attract new business. If we’re known as a healthy city, that becomes a positive thing for economic development. If we’re known as a city that thinks about the health of our workforce, that will be a big plus for companies.” The city is undertaking a range of prevention efforts – including supporting community programs, workplace wellness efforts and school-based initiatives– to help make it easier for city residents to make healthier choices. “Everything we do takes economic impact into account,” said Alisa Haushalter, a nurse with the health department who is project director for the program.