It’s all connected. A recent study by the Vitality Institute and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that the health of employees is linked to the health of the community in which they live. Its report, Beyond the Four Walls: Why Community is Critical to Workforce Health, analyzed health data (smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, cardiovascular mortality) across 3,100 counties and 21 major industries. It found that workers in poor health were more likely to live in counties with poor health, thus demonstrating a link between the community and a healthy workforce.
The report called for businesses and communities to work together and have a shared vision: better health and productivity for employees and the community at large. Partnerships among community stakeholders, employers, public health and others enable employees and their families to make healthy choices at work and beyond.
Businesses can help support community health in multiple ways:
- Strategic philanthropy, which can be a financial or in-kind contribution, such as donating the use of company grounds for a weekly farmer’s market to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Corporate social responsibility, which can be a worksite volunteer initiative, such as staffing a community health fair with nursing assistants to take blood pressure readings and screen for hypertension.
- Creating shared value, which can include extending a business corporate health strategy to the community, such as offering smoking cessation classes to teach quitting and coping skills.
Likewise, communities can support worksite health promotion efforts in many ways:
- Designing, building and supporting outdoor areas for activity such as walking paths, sidewalks, playgrounds and other open spaces.
- Providing land and support for community gardens where residents can grow and enjoy fresh local produce.
- Sharing use of school and community buildings for physical activity, health education and skill building.
The opportunities for businesses and the community to collaborate around health are endless. That’s why community partnerships are a key component of Working on Wellness. Working on Wellness aims to help Massachusetts businesses connect to their local communities and to each other to strengthen their efforts around health. This can’t be done in isolation. To have the greatest long-term impact, individuals need help engaging in healthy choices at work, where they live and where they spend time with families and friends.