Category Archives: Workforce issues
Economic constraints cause many Latinos to settle in low-income neighborhoods that have limited access to affordable healthy food options, playgrounds and parks, and pedestrian and bike-friendly streets. Instead, these neighborhoods have fast food restaurants that offer primarily nutrient poor food and, limited resources for recreation which limit physical activity options.
“Latinos will tell you it’s too hard to get fruits and vegetables,” Said Dr. George R. Flores, MD, MPH, Board of Directors, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California at APHA 2012. “Inequality in the social and physical environments in Latino communities contributes to the obesity epidemic by failing to provide opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity.”
Latino populations on average have some of the highest rates of obesity, which can have the severe consequence of type 2 diabetes. The diets of Latino children are higher in fat and lower in fruits and vegetables.
Late last year, NewPublicHealth spoke with Marc Freedman, MBA, CEO and Founder of Civic Ventures, about the “encore career movement”—a new stage of life and work that combines necessary continued income with new meaning and a chance to create social change. “One of the real challenges from people moving into this period is how you get from what’s last to what’s next. A lot of people are being discouraged, especially in this economy, when they are spending time and money to find themselves in these do-it-yourself ventures,” said Freedman. “We’re interested in trying to create better pathways for people in something that’s really distinct from retirement and the stage of work.”
To that end, Civic Ventures partnered with Intel to pilot the Encore Fellowship program, which provides paid, part-time, yearlong assignments working at local nonprofits, and is open to all Intel employees who are eligible for retirement. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Amber Wiseley, U.S. Retirement Benefits Program Manager, and Julee Weller, U.S. Health Benefits Program Manager, both at Intel, to find out more about the Encore program, as well as the company’s broader approach to employee health and wellness.
NewPublicHealth: What is Intel’s overall approach to health and wellness for employees?
Julee Weller: Intel is strongly committed to developing a culture where employees and their families are healthy, productive, and engaged in living wellness-oriented lifestyles every day.
Intel has developed a portfolio of health benefit plans and wellness programs designed to encourage employees to evaluate, improve, and maintain their health and the health of their families. Intel’s award-winning wellness program, Health for Life, is designed to inspire and motivate employees to take action toward achieving their best possible health and quality of life. The program includes onsite primary care (providing employees convenient access to quality care at low cost), onsite biometrics, annual health assessments, fitness programs, wellness seminars, flu prevention, and personalized wellness coaching.
NPH: Have you seen increased productivity or other business or economic benefits from your wellness efforts?
David Michaels, PhD, MPH, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health policy fellow, addressed the APHA annual meeting at the closing session today, focusing on workplace injuries and making workplaces safer and healthier. NewPublicHealth caught up with Dr. Michaels to talk about workplace safety successes and a look idea to what's on tap for the agency.
NewPublicHealth: What’s the critical issue for OSHA?
Dr. Michaels: Workplace injury rates have fallen but they’re still far too high. We’re down to twelve deaths a day but still twelve deaths are too many. And so, we are focusing our activities in ways to have a very broad impact and to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities across the board, and the way to do that is to encourage employers to develop injury and illness prevention programs, to assess the hazards in the workplace and fix them. In other words, we’re saying employers should really go past simply compliance with OSHA standards to taking a more systemic view of their workplace. We know that that’s successful. There are thousands of companies around the country that are doing this now as part of OSHA voluntary program and they will tell you that these programs not only reduce injuries but they save money.
NPH: Do you have any successes you can point to already?
A recent article in the journal PLoS One noted a rare downside to gainful employment—jobs requiring moderate physical activity accounted for 50 percent of the labor market in 1960, but have fallen since then to just 20 percent of the total. The article’s authors say the remaining 80 percent of jobs are either sedentary ones or only require light physical activity, and that the reduced activity is a factor in the rise in obesity in the U.S. in the last five decades.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Andrew Webber, president and C.E.O. of the National Business Coalition on Health, about the study findings and opportunities to increase physical activity, and other healthy behaviors, among U.S. workers and the general population. NBCH is a national membership organization of purchaser-led health care coalitions.
NewPublicHealth: Recent research about the link between a decline in jobs requiring physical activity and weight gain in the U.S. in the last five decades seems quite dramatic. What should businesses be doing to help reverse the trend?
Andrew Webber: First of all, we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic in this country and it’s not just the working population. We’re increasing in weight gain everywhere across the board. And there are a lot of reasons for that increase. A great deal of research has indicated that the conditions, both at the workplace and in the community, are not conducive to people losing weight--from lack of physical activity opportunities to individual behaviors to challenges in purchasing healthy food in many communities. There are a lot of reasons why we have this obesity epidemic and of course it is a precursor for the tsunami of chronic conditions in this country.
From an employer perspective, we have a huge interest--a business imperative--to be investing in the health and productivity of our workforce. And not just because we have a moral or social responsibility, but because the health and productivity of our workforce is a competitive asset. It’s the key to our bottom line. We need healthy, productive workers who can do their work. A responsibility--a business imperative for the business community--is investing in their human capital and improving the health and productivity of their workforce as a bottom line issue.
NPH: Do you think that businesses have a social responsibility to go beyond their employees and to help make communities healthier?
Andrew Webber: The answer is yes. I think employers have a responsibility to think about the influence of community dynamics on influencing the health and productivity of their workforce. The simple fact is an employer can do a wonderful job within the four corners of their work site in terms of building a culture of health. But then often individual employees walk, after their eight hours of work, into very unhealthy communities with no safe streets, with fast food restaurants on every corner, with no investments in local parks and recreation and sidewalks. Employers need to understand that the community influence can compromise their investments in workforce health. I think the employer community needs to be thinking about their contribution to improving population health at a community level as well.