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Jay Seifert
Mar 4, 2013 08:09 AM
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Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He will be a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his future columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

There is now widespread agreement that our declining health status is an issue we can no longer ignore or defer.  And most of us are beginning to understand that it’s an issue in which we all have a very big stake. Current estimates are that we’ll spend between $2.8 and $3.1 trillion on healthcare this year, making it the primary driver of our nation’s debt.  A recent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center includes this stark assessment:  “The current level of healthcare spending will bankrupt our country.” 

It is estimated that 86 percent of all full-time employees today are either overweight and/or have at least one chronic illness.  As a result, employers now spend an additional  $2 per employee per day just in medical and pharmaceutical costs.  Factor in the other organizational costs of an unhealthy workforce (increased absenteeism and presenteeism and decreased productivity), and you understand why improving employee health is now a business imperative.

For the past seven years, we’ve partnered with the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH) to improve the health status of their member hospitals and the communities they serve. More than ever, these hospitals need to contain costs, boost productivity and improve overall efficiency.  Protecting the health and well-being of their most important resource, their human capital, is their best strategy to achieve these outcomes. 

As we’ve implemented these initiatives, we’ve learned that the single best predictor of success is engaged, authentic and highly visible leadership.  Leaders understand that in order to be effective role models, they must be willing to “walk the talk” of any initiative they propose.  When that initiative involves their personal health,  that can be a disconcerting, if not a downright paralyzing prospect.  We understand. That’s why we’re here.

For the next several months, we’ll share what we’ve learned about effective leadership in addressing organizational health.  And you’ll be pleased to know that you can provide that leadership without ever having to run a 10K, trade hamburgers for tofu burgers or  put on a goofy Spandex outfit.  Our objective is to demystify the often misunderstood topic of employee health, help you define realistic leadership roles, and create the foundation for a sustainable culture of wellness within your organization. Here are some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • What is the leader’s role?        
    Providing the vision and inspiration necessary for constructive change is only the beginning. 
  • Burden or opportunity?                      
    Do your employees believe the initiative is being done to them or for them?
  • Top-down or bottom-up?        
    While the organization’s leaders must start the process, its sustainability will depend on whether its employees have taken ownership of the initiative.
  • Team-building            
    A well-defined, short-cycle team-building challenge will improve communication, morale, and engagement while strengthening a shared sense of mission.
  • Emerging leaders        
    When your employees believe that everyone, regardless of their condition, has something to contribute, as well as something to gain, and they prove that they can be successful, they become powerful influencers within the organization. 

A well-conceived and fully-implemented initiative to improve the health of your employees will deliver multiple and tangible benefits to your organization that go far beyond cost savings.  We’re looking forward to sharing what we have learned with NCHN and its membership.

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.

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