Most factors influencing health are social. Though quality medical care contributes to health, it is the social factors that account
for 80% of health conditions
Every problem has a solution, making every
problem an opportunity for suppliers. In
this case, opportunities can be found in
helping employers understand and address
(in significant ways) the social factors that
studies show drive the vast majority of healthcare
costs. While providing health insurance coverage for
quality healthcare providers and services is important, offering medical resources alone does not get to
the root of problems such as inequities in affordable,
accessible care and social and environmental factors
that greatly influence employee health. Employers
want to help their employees live healthier lives and
to reduce healthcare costs. However, there is a need
for vendor products and services that provide innovative approaches to reducing the social factors influencing employee health.
What influences the health status of employees?
The commonly recognized factors are things such as
diet, exercise, genetics and access to medical care.
In most organizations, efforts to improve employee
health outcomes places emphasis on access to medical care. However, (and surprisingly) there is now
a significant amount of research indicating clinical
care accounts for only 20% of health outcomes. The
other 80% is influenced by the social determinants of
health (SDOH). These determinants are the physical
environment (environmental quality and built environment), socioeconomic factors (education, employment, income, family and social support, community
safety), and health behaviors (tobacco use, diet and
exercise, alcohol use, unsafe sex).
Employer healthcare plans provide access to
healthcare, and wellness programs can contribute to
improving health behaviors. These two sets of social
determinant factors account for 50% of health status, so they are simply not enough - and especially
not for low-wage employees who live in underserved
communities. These employees are likely to have life
stressors such as inadequate food for the family, difficulties accessing transportation to work, low quality
living conditions, and childcare challenges – all negatively impacting employee health and work performance. The result is that employees may well develop
avoidable health conditions that increase both their
healthcare costs and the costs of employer health and wellness programs.
Employers are not expected to reshape society alone,
but there are many social factors they can influence.
It creates a wealth of opportunities for innovative
suppliers, such as providing mental health services
and access to affordable childcare.