Health Care


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.