The cost of disease in the work place is becoming catastrophic. Currently, it is estimated that the cost of medical services is seven times the national inflation rate. With all the other competing costs that businesses incur, believe it or not, health care is probably the most costly and also the least addressed.
To build the case for focusing on health as a cost saving measure, let’s start with some definitions of disease.
According to en.wiktionary.org
- “an abnormal condition of the body or mind that causes discomfort or dysfunction”
- “Lack of a feeling of ease; uneasiness”
According to www.understandinganimalresearch.org
- Malfunctioning of the body or any part of the body resulting from any number of influences, including genetic errors, toxins, infections, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental factors.
According to autistics.org/resources/glossary
- “an alteration of a living body that impairs its functioning”
According to montana.edu
- “stress condition produced by the effects of a pathogen on a susceptible host”
Yes, disease is often caused by tangible factors. Overeating, smoking, lack of exercise are the obvious causal factors. The bad news is, the intangibles are the factors that are really causing health care costs to rise. The intangibles such as feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and loss of personal value and worth are much so more costly because of the insidious impacts in all aspects of life and work.
The focus to decrease health care costs must shift from disease management to health management. Wellness programs are a great start. However, to really make a substantial impact, we as business and community leaders will need to focus on totally different frontiers. Frontiers such as Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Conflict Resolution, Leadership, Resilience and other so called “soft skills” are shown to have substantial impact on the bottom line. When companies focus on these new frontiers, there is a much more sustainable health impact on not just the benefit dollars expended but also the productivity costs that are flowing out the door.