World Health Day

World Health Day takes place this month. It’s a great springboard to review whether you’re communicating the right health messages and offering the right health support, tools and benefits.

Employee health and wellbeing – now’s the time to review your health offer

Saturday April 7 is World Health Day, organised by the World Health Organization (WHO). The day is to designed to stimulate conversations, debate and awareness around global healthcare and this year is focused on access to universal healthcare.

That, of course, is a useful and worthwhile talking point but, more relevantly perhaps for employers, World Health Day can also be an opportunity to step back, review and discuss your health and wellbeing strategy, whether “universal” or not.

Two recent pieces of research have highlighted precisely why having this sort of regular review process can be beneficial as an employer.

‘Putting up’ with poor health

First, a poll of 2,000 people commissioned by hearing aid firm Hidden Hearing has concluded that three-quarters of adults admit to “putting up” with an annoying or worrying health condition rather than seeking medical advice.

The average person waits for more than five months before going to their GP or another health professional, according to the study. One in 20 waited at least a year before pursuing medical advice for complaints such as hearing problems, headaches or back pain, it added.

Second, a study by consultancy Willis Towers Watson has found that a third of UK workers

(33%) believe their bosses should pay them for keeping healthy. A broadly similar percentage (34%) added that they would only participate in a company health initiative if there they felt there was a financial incentive to do so, up from 26% recorded in a similar poll in 2013.

How, then, do these illustrate the value of regularly reviewing or refreshing your health and wellbeing strategy?

The Hidden Hearing poll shows clearly that the “hassle” of taking time off to go and see a GP, as well the fear of not wanting to “waste” a GP’s time, can lead people to ignore or struggle on with conditions that they could, and probably should, get checked out or resolved.

Making employer-funded health relevant

If, however, fast-track, accessible, relevant employer-funded interventions are available, this may well not be the case, so allowing an employee not only to be healthier and happier in themselves, but more productive and engaged with their work.

The Willis Tower research, in turn, has illustrated how offering employer-funded or subsidised health and wellbeing tools and support is increasingly being expected by employees as part of the workplace “package”.

Moreover, it is not just about employees being passive participants of such support; increasingly employees are seeing themselves as “consumers” who need an incentive or reward to engage.

There is also, of course, an element of people needing to take personal, individual responsibility for their health and wellbeing, for the lifestyle and behaviour choices.

Take time to review your strategy

So, what is the over-arching message here for employers?

Whether or not you use World Health Day as an opportunity to open these conversations, it is important regularly to be stepping back and asking some basic questions of your health and wellbeing strategy.

What is your strategy, have you worked out what your staff would like or need, have you even asked them, do you understand your demographic properly, are you really paying attention to what they’re saying they want or expect when it comes to health and wellbeing?

As Dr Lucy Wright, Chief Medical Officer for Optima Health, puts it: “World Health Day is a very worthwhile cause in itself. But you can also use it and other similar dates in the calendar in a more practical way, as a springboard to opening the conversations you need to be having. This could be whether your health offer is delivering as it should, or whether it needs to be rethought or adjusted and the role of individuals taking ownership for managing their health.”