New Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Commission Seeks Collaborators

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By now, you’ve probably heard of the report recently released by the Vitality Institute, a New York-based organization made up of leaders in both the public and private sectors. Their main focus is to strengthen the evidence base of what works and what doesn’t in health promotion and disease prevention. The report, Investing in Prevention: A National Imperative, offers recommendations on these topics. A particular recommendation that has people talking is one that some may find controversial: Companies should report their employee health metrics just as they report their financial earnings.
Eighty percent of non-communicable diseases could be prevented, the report states. Preventing these diseases by 2023 could save the United States between $217 billion and $303 billion per year—about five percent to seven percent of annual healthcare spending. How do you prevent the diseases? By collecting data on individuals’ health profiles, identifying who might be at risk, and presumably then encouraging healthy habits.
Any time an individual’s private data is collected, it’s controversial. But the report seems to argue that health-related data isn’t merely private—the information that it contains could reveal ways to help strengthen society at some of its most fundamental levels. “The consequences of non-communicable diseases have short- and long-term effects by forcing individuals to exit the workforce prematurely due to their own poor health, or to care for ill relatives,” the report states. “Lower productivity and higher absenteeism, combined with soaring costs of treatment, impede innovation and crowd out productive investment in education and research and development.” In light of that, the Vitality Institute argues, it’s imperative that we know the state of health of America’s employees.
Why should you care about all this? The commission that put together the Vitality Institute’s report represents high-powered public- and private-sector organizations, such as Microsoft Corp., IBM, AARP, Humana, Johns Hopkins University, Qualcomm, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These organizations have promised to carry out four initiatives meant to revolutionize the prevention of diseases and the promotion of health in the United States. To launch these initiatives, the commission is seeking collaborators — and what businesses are better positioned to collaborate than gyms, health clubs, fitness centres, and sports centres, which already work toward disease prevention and health promotion? Now is the time to get involved.
In addition to building a Corporate Health Leaders Program comprising evidence-based workplace health promotion training courses for small, medium, and large employers, the commission also plans to “convene a workshop on ethical, legal, and social issues with respect to the use of data collected by personal prevention technologies.” Another initiative aims to strengthen leadership and advocacy through networks. All in all, these are sweeping ideas that could have a huge impact on the future of fitness in this country. That’s where you come in. And here’s an interesting idea for you: What if your company were one of the first to voluntarily begin reporting employees’ health metrics? You’d sure get noticed.

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