Businesses urged to track workforce health

June 18, 2014 USA Today

By Karen Weintraub

Out of frustration with decades of failed efforts to improve America’s health and cut its health care spending, a new institute launched an effort Wednesday to attack the problem at work.

The habits of working adults – smoking, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating and high stress – lay the groundwork for health problems years and decades later. Improving those health habits could dramatically reduce health care spending over the long term and make American workers more productive and competitive, said Derek Yach, executive director of the Vitality Institute for Health Promotion, a think-tank that aims to reduce non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, mental illness and cancer.

The Vitality Institute, founded by the South African financial services and insurance provider Discovery Ltd, released a report Wednesday calling for a greater focus on workplace-based prevention activities. A commission, set up by the institute, estimates that the U.S. could save $217–303 billion per year – roughly 5%-7% of total health care spending – by 2023 by putting more emphasis on prevention.

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