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  • Addressing Health Inequalities: Healthy Workplaces Impact on Diverse Workforces

    Published on October 7, 2023

    By Srabani Banerjee, Head, of Healthy Workplaces Program, Arogya World

     In an increasingly globalized and diverse world, the issue of health inequalities has taken centre stage. As we strive for a fair and equitable society, it’s imperative to recognize the profound impact that healthy workplaces can have on diverse workforces. It is essential to address these inequalities and advocate for the creation of healthy and inclusive work environments that cater to the diverse needs of employees.

    The term “health inequalities” refers to the differences in health outcomes and access to healthcare that are experienced by different groups within a society. These disparities are often influenced by factors such as socioeconomic status, race, gender, ethnicity, age, geographic location etc. Creating healthy workplaces that cater to this diversity goes beyond providing physical wellness initiatives – it involves cultivating an inclusive environment that recognizes and respects unique employee needs.

    “By providing the benefits necessary to live a healthy life, ensuring their offerings lead to equitable outcomes, working with the communities in which they operate and collaborating with partners to advance polices that drive health equity, every company is ultimately a health company.” – World Economic Forum.

    Understanding the Impact

    It is important to recognize that the impact of health inequalities goes beyond individual well-being; it affects overall productivity, employee satisfaction, and even a company’s bottom line. Hence, addressing health inequalities is not only a matter of social justice, but it also makes economic sense. Healthy individuals contribute to business resilience in the long run, by avoiding productivity losses due to absenteeism and the financial burden of treating illnesses. Investing in health equity within local communities promotes an inclusive environment and a sustainable value chain for businesses.

    Also, diverse workforces often bring a wealth of perspectives and ideas to the table, driving innovation and creativity. However, when health inequalities are not addressed, these valuable contributions can be stifled. For instance, women and minority groups have historically faced unequal access to healthcare resources. By prioritizing health and wellness initiatives, companies can break down these barriers and provide equal opportunities for all employees to thrive. This not only fosters a sense of belonging but also enhances retention rates and job satisfaction.

    The Role of Workplaces in promoting health equity

    Mental health issues are a growing concern. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) estimated that about 10% of the Indian population suffers from mental health problems.

    Workplaces play a pivotal role in promoting equity and inclusivity. Employers have a responsibility to create a safe environment where employees can prioritize their well-being without fear of discrimination or bias. This begins with implementing policies that ensure equal access to wellness programs, healthcare benefits, and mental health support. Furthermore, flexible work arrangements and accommodations for individuals with disabilities are essential components of a healthy and diverse workplace. By acknowledging and accommodating different needs, employers send a powerful message that every employee’s health and contributions are valued. From BP’s integration of health equity and wellbeing into their enterprise sustainability plan to Unilever’s commitment to pay all workers throughout their tier 1 supply chain a living wage by 2030, we are already seeing a surge in momentum from businesses across industries towards investing in health equity.

    Empowering Through Education

    By raising awareness about health inequalities and their impact on diverse populations, organizations can take proactive steps towards creating positive change. Through learning conferences, public workshops, webinars, lifestyle coaching sessions and educational resources, Arogya World equips organizations with the knowledge, tools and a robust framework, to create an inclusive and healthy work environment. Arogya World, a recipient of the prestigious 2022 UN Award, has been recognising and supporting organisations towards advancing the workplace health movement in India, through health education and lifestyle change.

    Education also extends to employees themselves. By providing information on preventive care, mental health resources, and healthy lifestyle choices, companies can empower their workforce to take charge of their well-being. When employees are informed and supported, they are more likely to make choices that positively impact their health.

    Collaboration for Change

    Health inequities are not only driven by access and quality of care. Up to 70% of disparities are due to non-medical drivers of health — financial security, housing and other social, economic and environmental pressures. Addressing health inequalities in diverse workforces requires a collaborative effort. The focus should be on fostering partnerships between employers, government agencies, and community organizations to drive meaningful change. By sharing best practices and resources, these stakeholders can work together to create a more equitable and healthy society.

    For example, Medtronic is developing community-based, tech-enabled solutions that provide last-mile delivery of healthcare essentials. Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research is examining the factors that contribute to health disparities and identifying evidence-based interventions to eliminate them. Johnson & Johnson has committed $100 million to closing the racial mortality gap by investing in culturally competent community care models that generate better health outcomes for people of colour.

    Additionally, companies can leverage their influence to advocate for policies that promote health equity on a larger scale. This can involve supporting initiatives that improve access to quality healthcare, affordable housing, and education, all of which contribute to creating a level playing field for everyone. CVS Health, for example has invested $185 million into affordable housing to support health equity in underserved communities, while Novo Nordisk has partnered with more than 40 cities worldwide to address the systemic issues underlying the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes and reduce health inequities.

    As we strive for a more equitable world, it’s crucial to recognize the pivotal role that healthy workplaces play in addressing health inequalities within diverse workforces. Arogya World stands at the forefront of this movement, advocating for an inclusive approach to employee well-being that values diversity and empowers individuals to lead healthier lives. By prioritizing health equity, Arogya World Healthy workplaces are creating sustainable workplaces of the future, where every employee’s unique needs are met, regardless of their background, leading to higher engagement and productivity, contributing to a brighter and more equitable future for all. As Arogya World continues its mission, it is our hope that the ripple effects of healthy workplaces will extend far beyond office walls, shaping a world where health inequalities are but a distant memory.

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