Business partnerships help build health cultures

An organization that adopts a culture of health can benefit from working with other employers.

A group of seven employers in the Philadelphia area is testing this by conducting a pilot project funded by the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit established by Congress to direct private sector resources in support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) to mobilize. critical health work.

In the Greater Philadelphia Employer Culture of Health Collaborative, participating companies use a peer-review methodology developed by consulting firm HealthNEXT to assess their readiness to create a multi-faceted health culture within their organization. They then share their findings with the other collaborative members under the auspices of the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health (PBCH), an employers’ group that also funds the project.

“We employ the same tools and processes across all employers,” said Neil Goldfarb, President and CEO of PBCH. “They talk about going through the same thing [formal assessment] Experience.”

An important aspect of the Philadelphia initiative is ongoing peer support, said Bette Francis, SHRM-SCP, chief human resource officer for one of the project’s participants, the YMCA of Delaware.

“The collaboration really brought like-minded people together,” said Francis, a former SHRM CEO.

Ray Fabius, President and Chief Medical Officer of HealthNEXT, has published a study showing that large companies that invest in a culture of healthcare outperform their peers.

Francis agreed, noting that “by improving the health and well-being of employees and their families [we] begin to make a significant contribution to the health of the community” overall.

How it works

The collaborative assessment process begins with employers undertaking a standardized assessment of their readiness to create a formal health culture. Typical evaluation questions are:

  • The percentage change in healthcare costs from year to year.
  • Whether the organization has active advocates for health and wellness activities.
  • Whether the organization has a Chief Medical Officer.

The answers are then collated to create a score relative to a benchmark score of 750, which Fabius compared to a credit score. The client then consults with a HealthNEXT medical expert over time to create and refine their program, while receiving support and advice from other collaborative members.

There are two evaluation forms, one for medium-sized companies and one for companies with more than 5,000 employees. That’s because a large employer can do some things that a medium-sized company can’t, Fabius said. “You can’t ask a medium-sized employer to run a cafeteria, a company health center, or a major fitness center,” he noted.

“The last 100 points will become more difficult and may require structural changes at the company level,” he added. “If you read about an employer’s performance that fails in the area of ​​wellness or well-being, it’s either because they didn’t execute it with excellence, or because it is [implementing steps have] was not done in the right order, and we can prevent that.”

Francis said she has already received some useful advice based on the assessment and follow-up consultations. “The Y does a lot of wellness-themed activities — 5Ks, workout rooms and all that — and yet we didn’t necessarily formalize it in a way that we could point that out,” she said. Formalizing and labeling employee wellness activities “helps bring many of our programs together and shows we’re doing more than we thought we were doing,” which can then be communicated to employees.

The collaboration will be funded until July 2023. At this point, Goldfarb hopes participating companies will recognize its value.

“The aim was to get the ball rolling, get employers to do the standardized assessment, develop a strategic plan and implement it,” he said. “We gave employers the building blocks and incentives to get started.”

Other Projects

The Philadelphia Health Collaboration is among early efforts to bring employers together to assess how prepared they are to improve the health and well-being of their employees, but it’s not the first.

Health Links, a research-to-practice program within the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health, was founded in 2012 to partner with the state’s small businesses to improve their employee health efforts . It has expanded its efforts to work with 757 companies in 13 states.

Similar to the HealthNEXT methodology, Health Links uses an assessment-consultation-action format to help participating employers create healthier workplaces. Its participants report both quantified and “soft” dividends from the program:


  • Based in Englewood, Colo White assembly reported a 9 percent increase in participation in health and safety programs after joining Health Links. Through employee surveys, leaders found that their employees wanted more mental health resources. The company now offers stress management programs including free counseling through its Employee Assistance Scheme. It also offers a workshop – Walking for Mental Health – that focuses on taking breaks and walking through nature to help employees relieve stress.


  • Home repair company from Denver Doctor Fix-It found that their employees wanted more information about financial advice and physical activity. For those interested in financial advice, the HR team has brought in consultants who will provide them with financial advice and resources. For those interested in physical activity, the company offered discounted memberships to local fitness facilities. As a result of changes made in working with Health Links, employee participation in health and safety programs increased from 63 percent in 2017 to 97 percent in 2019. The company also increased its employee retention rate from 30.8 percent to 96.4 percent during this period.

Mitzi Schindler, senior director of communications for the Aurora, Colorado Chamber of Commerce, which helps its member companies participate in a grant-funded Health Links program, said that “return on engagement” is related to the camaraderie the program has generated , be clear.

keep results

In Philadelphia, Fabius and Francis say HR leaders can be strong advocates of a collaborative culture of healthcare programs.

Yet “while HR can be an important leader, a sustainable corporate culture of health and well-being is essential [requires] Guidance and management support through the C-Suite,” said Fabius.

Francis added that the chief HR officer “is part of this C-suite and should be one of the drivers” of this effort to ensure improvements in employee health and well-being continue over time.


Greg Goth is a freelance health and technology writer based in Oakville, Connecticut.



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