Achieving Health Equity: Breaking Down Barriers and Creating Change

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Health equity is a condition in which people have fair and equal access to resources and opportunities to maximize their health and well-being, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or other factors. Achieving health equity in the workplace requires addressing the systemic barriers and disparities within the organization.

Health Equity in the Workplace

Business leaders play a critical role in addressing the factors that cause health inequity in the workplace. By performing an assessment of the current wellness programs, talking to employees about their needs, and establishing key performance indicators, employers can take effective measures to improve the health and well-being of employees — fostering productivity and reducing absenteeism and healthcare costs in the process.

Organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA) are promoting initiatives for addressing health disparities. According to the AHA, up to 80% of employees’ health outcomes are driven by social, economic, or environmental factors, mostly influenced by the workplace. Employers can begin to address this disparity by adding health and well-being initiatives to their benefits pool.

Factors Contributing to Health Disparities

Health disparities stem from differences in access to healthcare, influenced by factors like availability, affordability, and quality of services. These differences can result in health inequity, leading to consequences such as absenteeism and increased employee turnover. This turnover not only affects individual job stability but also disrupts organizational productivity and cohesion.

Besides socioeconomic factors such as location and income level, the main drivers of health inequality in the workplace are the employees' ability to meet their basic needs and the level of access to healthcare services. Also, employees with sufficient health supports (like education and insurance) can better afford to engage in preventative health practices, instead of being forced to address issues only as they arise.

Analyzing data on health outcomes by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other demographic factors can help identify disparities and target interventions effectively. This data-driven approach is essential for monitoring progress and evaluating the impact of health equity initiatives.

Promoting Health Equity in the Workplace: Strategies for Change

To improve health equity in the workplace, organizations can implement action in three areas:

1.    Expand Benefits to Address Social Factors

Investing in benefits, job training programs, and ensuring access to healthy food can help address the underlying social determinants of health and reduce disparities in health outcomes.

 A 2021 McKinsey survey of full-time employees at large US employers across multiple industries showed that employees belonging to minority ethnic groups had less access to and awareness of employer benefits. According to the survey, more than 30% of underrepresented employees considered leaving their jobs for better benefits, including better healthcare. 

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LGBTQ+ and people of color experience unmet social and health needs at a higher rate than employees identifying as white and cis — and they’re also less likely to report feeling that their employer cares about their needs.

People with unmet health or social needs miss more days of work and are less productive, according to the same study.

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 Employers can expand the benefits pool to reduce this gap in needs. For example, loaded debit cards for food or transportation, free or discounted childcare, free health assessments, and resources (including mental health) are ways to make wellness accessible to all employees.

2.    Implement a Wellness Program

A well-designed wellness initiative is critical to achieving health equality in an organization. A successful program will prioritize all employees’ access to wellness resources and plans. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines four aspects of a successful wellness program as follows: 

  • Prioritizing workers’ health and well-being across company policies. Employees need to be physically healthy and satisfied with their work-life balance. 
  • Creating a workplace culture that supports wellness. The workplace environment should foster the engagement of employees in health activities and programs. 
  • Emphasizing preventative health education. The goal of a successful health program is to improve employee awareness of preventative steps they can take to better their health. For instance, education about handling or preventing high blood pressure, diabetes, and stress. 
  • Rewarding health markers and goals. Financial incentives can go a long way to foster participation in wellness programs. Gift cards, gym memberships, and other perks encourage employees to take care of themselves. 

3.    Creating a Company Culture Oriented to Wellness

A common question for HR managers is, who is responsible for wellness at work? This task usually falls to the HR department. However, modern organizations understand that achieving corporate wellness requires employees' commitment at all levels, from the mailroom to the boardroom. 

Other strategic steps a company can take to foster a wellness-oriented culture include: 

  • Create a wellness policy. Develop a clear, employee-informed wellness policy and promote it across the organization. 
  • Offer multiple programs. Offer varied wellness initiatives like financial wellness, virtual fitness classes and challenges, mental health support, smoking cessation, and healthy eating. 
  • Promote education and awareness. Provide resources and workshops to educate employees about wellness, covering topics like nutrition and stress management. 
  • Ensure accessibility. Make sure programs are accessible by offering diverse formats and options during work hours, and making sure transportation is easy and available. Also take care to address any cultural or religious needs. 
  • Establish KPIs and measure results. Establish goals and track health metrics, absenteeism, and productivity to assess program effectiveness, considering both ROI and VOI. 
  • Provide recognition. Celebrate employee successes through incentives like gift cards, formal acknowledgement, or special events, reinforcing a culture of wellness and achievement.

CoreHealth: Technology That Creates Health Equity

Achieving health equity in the workplace requires a concerted effort from company leadership. Addressing the social determinants of health, improving company culture, and using data to drive decision making can help achieve health equity for all company employees. Technology provides the platform to develop a wellness program that is relevant and accessible to all employees.

CoreHealth is an organization that helps other companies deliver fully customized employee health and well-being programs. Our flexible solution suits simple to complex organizations and helps all employees access well-being and health programs.

Discover how the CoreHealth platform helps organizations offer health equity by requesting a demo.

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