The focus was on creating healthier work places and healthier, wealthier communities at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s regional work and wellness forum in Fort Worth Nov. 12.
The bottom line is: When people are healthier, they are wealthier, and when workplaces and communities are healthier, cities are wealthier, said Richard Crespin, director of business outreach for the USCCF and forum moderator.
Part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Better Health Through Economic Opportunity” campaign, the forum was cosponsored by the Fort Worth Chamber and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
“We are trying to get businesses of all sizes, around the country, to get engaged in community health. It’s just a myth that it’s going to be hard to do because it’s outside of what they know how to do best,” Crespin said. “There are so many easy things we can do, and our poor health outcomes are costing us so much money.”
For the past six years, the Fort Worth Chamber has conducted surveys to determine the major concerns of businesses throughout Tarrant County.
Each time, the rising cost of employee health care insurance has been at the top of the list, said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber.
“From a business perspective, this is the greatest challenge facing our community today,” he said. “The best and brightest talent is attracted to companies with emphasis on employee health.”
Ideas presented at the forum for better health in the workplace ranged from outside as well as inside smoke-free environments to walking business meetings and stand-up conferences, more healthy snacks in vending machines, stress-free time-out rooms, on-site flu shots and vaccinations and small bonuses for meeting individual health goals.
Walking audits to determine all the most healthy places to eat, walk, exercise and just breathe fresh air should be encouraged, several speakers said.
“You should identify a health advocate in your organization, someone to champion the cause and to determine what your particular employees need and want,” Crespin said.
“You have to remember there are four generations in the workforce right now,” said Mike Sweet, president of the food division for Ben E. Keith. “What’s most important to one may not be as important to another,”
“A lot of our employees have military backgrounds. They expect their employer to help them meet their health goals,” said Dr. Thomas Bettes, regional medical director for Lockheed Martin Corporation.
“Where you live, work and play is a bigger influence on your health than your genetics,” said Elizabeth Sobel Blum, senior advisor of community development for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and keynote speaker for the forum.
“Education, income and health are intrinsically linked,” she said. “Access to quality health care is important, but most important is access to healthy opportunities. To improve health, we need to empower people with opportunities to make healthy choices in the places they live, learn, work and play.”
Fort Worth was chosen as one of 10 cities nationwide to host a health and wellness forum as part of the “Better Health Through Educational Opportunity” campaign.
The two-year campaign will include publication of a toolkit listing resources and specific tools for taking action to address a community’s health and economic issues.
It will conclude with a national summit bringing together businesses, policy makers and key health and education officials and health advocates to better understand the link between economic outcomes and health outcomes. The summit will highlight lessons learned at the series of forums.
About 130 business executives, small business owners, educators and human resources directors attended the forum.