Three health and wellness strategies your education and workforce agenda may be missing
As education and workforce development (EDWD) organizations are wrapping up annual strategic planning processes for 2016, many are still looking back on their plans wondering what is missing. Seasoned EDWD professionals know all too well that there is no silver bullet when it comes to improving education attainment and developing a talented and competitive workforce, and that various factors affect the talent pipeline; yet, the question of what will most significantly accelerate their organization’s annual goals will hover over their minds throughout the year.
So what could be missing—even from best practice models like cradle-to-career collective impact initiatives, which build cross-sectors partnerships to improve student outcomes? Chances are that what is missing is a comprehensive and well-balanced health and wellness agenda. At ACCE, we see a growing number of chambers of commerce that are championing health and wellness initiatives in their community, understanding that efforts to improve the talent pipeline work hand in hand with improving health.
What’s the connection?
You may be wondering just how critical a health and wellness action plan is to improving education attainment and workforce outcomes, and the correlation between the two is stronger than most of us realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that losses in productivity due to worker illness and injury costs U.S. Employers $225.8 billion annually, equal to $1,685 per employee, enough to significantly impact a business’s bottom line. One study, conducted by the nonprofit Health Enhancement Research Organization, even suggests that best-practice workplace wellness practices are linked to better corporate performance (read more at SHRM.org). These findings help us to understand how deeply health affects our workforce.
What is also interesting is that, on the flip side, EDWD significantly impacts health outcomes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created an excellent Better Education = Healthier Lives infographic, which demonstrates how an individual’s health is greatly shaped by their socioeconomic factors, such as education and income. It states that “Each additional year of schooling represents an 11% increase income. High earnings increase access to healthier food and safer homes, and can even lower uncertainty and stress.”
Recognizing that you cannot advance one agenda without the other, ACCE has identified the following three opportunities for chambers of commerce to incorporate health and wellness strategies into their EDWD efforts.
- Ensuring Children Are Ready to Learn: Chambers of commerce are uniquely poised to work with key education stakeholders and community service providers to ensure that young children receive the quality education and wellness care they need to be healthy and ready to learn by the time they reach kindergarten. By focusing on a community’s youngest residents, a chamber can not only ensure children are set on a positive trajectory to succeed in school and career, but also instill effective wellness habits that will shape their future health—and as an added bonus, help develop a talented and productive workforce capable of competing in the 21st century global market.
- Promoting Workplace Wellness: With direct access to the business community, chambers of commerce can provide employers with the support and guidance needed to implement innovative and effective programs and workplace policies that encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. The benefits of workplace wellness programs far outweigh their cost, and more and more employers are finding that, in addition to helping employees adopt healthy work-life habits, these programs produce more productive employees, help attract and retain talent, build staff morale, combat employee absenteeism, minimize staff turnover and reduce healthcare costs for employers.
- Building a Healthy Community Culture: Chambers of commerce already champion opportunities to raise the quality of life for their residents, knowing their members will prosper as a result. These organizations—which typically represent diverse sectors of the community, including business, non-profit, education, and health and government entities—can offer opportunities for their members to participant in events and/or councils that are focused on improving community health. Strong community health can be the tipping point towards economic vitality and equitable prosperity, fulfilling a chamber’s vision for its community.
Where to start?
For ACCE members looking to develop or expand an education and workforce development agenda that is inclusive of health and wellness, ACCE’s Education Attainment Division has pulled together excellent examples of chamber-led health and wellness initiatives and created a series of communication briefs, which are available on the division’s Workforce Wellness and Community Health Chamberpedia page. The division will be also be providing on-going technical assistance throughout the year and developing additional resources with an expanded online library of health and wellness resources to come this spring, as well as in-person support and education-and-workforce-development-related sessions at ACCE’s 2016 Annual Convention August 9-12 in Savannah, GA.
To learn more about these resources or to share how your organization is championing health and wellness, please contact Analidia Blakely, Education Attainment Division Manager, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Buddy System: Chambers Supporting New Year’s Health Resolutions
It is often said that the key to sticking to your New Year’s resolution is using the buddy system: enlisting a partner to support your journey and report your progress to. In the New Year, chambers of commerce are taking on this role in their communities for members who want to support their employees’ workforce wellness resolutions. Both the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Saratoga (NY) Chamber of Commerce have announced new initiatives to boost the health of their communities in 2015:
- Along with community partners, the Greater Des Moines Partnership has unveiled a new Wellness Toolkit, in an effort to help its small business members make Iowa the healthiest state in the country by 2016. With one year to tackle this goal, the Chamber has created a business-friendly 12-month toolkit.
According to the press release, “many small business owners like the idea of helping their employees remain healthy, but don’t have enough time, knowledge, or resources to implement a program. The Get Active Wellness Toolkit seeks to remove those barriers by arming small businesses with ‘plug-and-play’ content to help them implement a wellness program within their offices.”
Each month in the toolkit represents a different health theme, from fitness to dental health. Each kit contains a poster that lays out wellness tips, facts, and resources. Employers can also download packets that contain more health facts, suggestions for activities to implement in the workplace, and daily health tips that they can email to employees.
Also found on its wellness homepage, the Partnership has created various fact sheets regarding health and fitness, compiled a directory of resources for wellness in the workplace, and even supports a mobile app that connects members of the Des Moines community who have committed to an active lifestyle.
- The Saratoga (NY) Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Blue Shield of Northeastern NY, is hosting Saratoga’s first-ever Health and Wellness Week from January 5-11. Enlisting the participation of member businesses, the event will showcase many of the health and wellness opportunities available in Saratoga, with the goal of inspiring the community to live healthier in 2015.
Throughout the week, member businesses will help create buzz and excitement around health and wellness by offering a wide range of workshops, classes, discounts and seminars. These mini-events are designed to help community members explore new health and wellness products and services. Examples include mineral water tours, free fitness classes, mini facials, and cooking classes.
The Saratoga Health and Wellness Week was the brainchild of the chamber’s new Health and Wellness Committee, which is charged with expanding the chamber’s already expansive initiatives to make Saratoga one of the healthiest communities to live in.
For more information on how chambers are helping create healthier communities:
- Visit the Workplace Wellness and Community Health Chamberpedia Page to learn how chambers support childhood obesity prevention, corporate wellness, and access to healthcare
- Download the Workplace Wellness Communication Briefs to disseminate to members and broader community to explain how businesses can support healthy communities and healthy economies.