Business and Public Health: Working Together for More Prosperous Communities

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The pandemic has crystallized the inextricable link between America’s public health and economic well-being – and made us painfully aware that our public health infrastructure is at a dangerous tipping point. Decades of underinvestment and inadequate support for public health across sectors has left our nation struggling to address COVID-19. Without healthy and safe places to live, work, and play, there simply can be no pathway to economic or social prosperity.

The private sector has a unique opportunity to help the nation recover from the pandemic and prepare for future crises by championing policies, practices, and institutions that advance health and safety. Doing so now can help to mitigate risks and secure a better and more stable future for companies and their stakeholders.

In partnership with the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at the Johns Hopkins Unviersity Bloomberg School of Public Health, the de Beaumont Foundation on Feb. 23 released  “Seven Ways Business Can Align with Public Health for Bold Action and Innovation, which presents practical steps that businesses can take to strengthen partnerships and improve health. As part of that report’s release, the Foundation partnered with Washington Post Live for a panel discussion on how businesses are responding to the pandemic and the role of business in building stronger communities. The Feb. 25 event featured Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, MA, President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation; Ron Goetzel, PhD, director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies; Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, chief health officer for Google Health; Hayward Donigan, CEO of Rite Aid; and Henry Ting, MD, MBA, chief health officer for Delta Air Lines. View Dr. Castrucci’s and Dr. Goetzel’s remarks below. See the full segment here

 

The Value Proposition

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Community health and business success are closely related. Companies depend on communities to provide healthy employees, consumers, and business partners, while communities depend on companies to offer jobs, stability, and opportunities to create wealth. Recognizing the interdependency between the two sectors, the “Good Health is Good Business” report by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the de Beaumont Foundation encourages collaboration between the two by putting forth the value proposition for such collaborations and details the potential benefits for each sector. 

 

Businesses and local health departments should work together to improve community conditions that affect all residents — including the businesses’ employees, customers, and others. – Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, MA, President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation 

Ideas for Alignment

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Businesses have an opportunity to partner with public health leaders in their local community to help drive policies and efforts that can create healthier communities—the key to a resilient workforce and strong economy. Doing so will require understanding the opportunity and collaborating effectively. Alignment between businesses and local public health organizations is critical to eradicating COVID-19 and preparing better prepared to meet future crises. 

The “Seven Ways Business Can Align with Public Health for Bold Action and Innovation report presents practical steps that businesses can take to strengthen partnerships and improve the health of their employees, communities, and the nation. Developed in partnership between the de Beaumont Foundation and the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, these recommendations were informed by a series of focus groups and personal interviews with 40 business and public health leaders who shared ideas about what can be done to address the immediate COVID-19 crisis and its spillover effects on the health and well-being of Americans. 

 

7 Ways Business Can Align with Public Health for
Bold Action and Innovation

1) “Put out the fire” of COVID-19 by following advice of credible public health experts.
  • Empower a Chief Medical Officer or Chief Public Health Officer to guide the organization.
  • Ensure that trusted public health recommendations are reflected in employee newsletters, on-site signage, town hall meetings, and advertising.
  • Examples: A health care company can acknowledge the important role of front-line workers; a technology company can describe its use of advanced technology to address the COVID-19 crisis; an auto maker can show how it is keeping its manufacturing facilities safe and open.
  • Champion critical public health policies such as promoting earned sick leave in all businesses to create a more resilient workforce.
  • Other longer-term strategies include paid parental leave, increased access to vaccinations, flexible work schedules, and livable wages.
  • This includes considering how your company can help to address the root causes of poor health and inequities affecting your employees and the communities in which they live: access to affordable housing, good quality air and water, universal pre-kindergarten, and healthy food procurement, etc.
  • Partner with local and state health departments. Attend one another’s meetings to increase information sharing and leverage resources from a wider public health network.
  • Expand natural disaster preparedness plans to include immediate health crises (such as COVID-19) as well as longer-term concerns related to public health.
  • Partnerships could also include establishing a Chief Public Health Strategy liaison between the business and public health sectors.
  • Consider convening round tables and think tank discussions sponsored by the business community and facilitated by universities, business publications, foundations, and government agencies such as the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General.
  • Assign accountability and monitor progress toward achieving key economic and public health outcomes in your local community.
  • CEOs could assess metrics such as diversity of leadership, re-skilling opportunities, housing affordability, travel time to work, volunteering activity, injury rates, use of vacation time, greenhouse gas emissions, community health partnerships, diabetes prevalence, and access to quality health care.
  • Leverage existing institutions, such as the military, as well as creating new employment opportunities for citizens at all levels of education (e.g., we need 100K-300K new contact tracers).
  • Expansion is also needed in the U.S. Surgeon General’s team and we should establish a U.S. Public Health Service Reserve Corps that activates former Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers.
  • Business can also voice support for a non-military Public Health Jobs Corps, similar in design and structure to AmeriCorps, Teach for America, and the Peace Corps.

To read the full set of recommendations, read the full report.

 

Take Action

Ready to take action by championing policies, practices, and institutions that advance health and safety and are also good for business? Visit the Health Action Alliance supported by the de Beaumont Foundation, Ad Council, Business Roundtable, CDC Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for free tools, resources, and access to a network of businesses working together to accelerate the COVID-19 response, strengthen vaccine acceptance, and rebuild public health.

 

Questions? Please contact Emily Yu at emily@debeaumont.org.

Georges C. Benjamin, MD Executive Director, APHA

We know that multisectoral programs that include the business community in partnership with public health lead to sustainable improvements in the health of communities. These seven Ways to align our efforts are a roadmap to ensuring we have a robust public health system that can bring increased value to both business and the community.

Georges C. Benjamin, MD Executive Director, APHA

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