Children’s health: It’s a business issue

Engaging the Milwaukee business community in improving our children’s health has never been more important than it is right now. At Children’s Hospital and Health System, we are committed to improving the health of all children in Wisconsin, starting with a priority focus on the health of children in Milwaukee.

And that starts with local businesses.

Local businesses? How and why would business take on the charge of proactively improving the health of the community? More than just a responsible and admirable road to travel, many businesses recognize that investing in the health of their local communities is sound business practice.

When employees have sick children, they often miss work, or can be distracted and less productive while at work. Illness, whether that of an employee or a covered family member, is a main driver of a company’s health insurance costs. In addition to illness, poor childhood experiences may affect adult behavioral and health outcomes, which impact the quality and wellness of our future work force. In contrast, employees with healthy children are able to be more productive and less distracted at work. Children who grow up in healthy families, living in healthy communities with good learning opportunities have better chances of becoming productive members of the local workforce as adults.

And businesses that support the development of healthier families and communities facilitate economic growth that has a positive impact on the business both directly and indirectly.

A good example is Quad/Graphics. As a company, they saw an opportunity to improve the lives of employees and their families while simultaneously saving money on rising health care expenses. The result is QuadMed – medical facilities with doctors and programs for employees and families of the company. Not only does QuadMed treat illness, they also strive to maintain wellness with education and guidance for employees to get well and stay well. As a result of this focus, Quad Graphics has significantly reduced costs while improving the lives of their employees and their families.

Even smaller companies can invest in the health of their employees by implementing a worksite wellness program or making annual flu vaccines available — steps that have improved employee health, productivity, and job satisfaction, and reduced company costs. Companies of any size can support volunteerism in the local community which also facilitates the health of local communities — by creating cleaner, safer environments — and enhances company loyalty.

Taking proper care of child and family health now as a business leader is imperative. While many businesses are struggling to some extent in this economic climate, it is important that they realize that investing in the health and wellness of employee families can save money now in the future.

Kids who are healthy and productive now will grow to adults who know how to maintain their health to the benefit of their future employers. 

Dr. Veronica Gunn, MD, MPH, FAAP is the medical director of community services for Children’s Hospital and Health Systems in Milwaukee.

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