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Invest in your employees’ wellness! That is the word from Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness recently. He was addressing an awards ceremony for the Work-it-Out weight loss challenge put on by the National Health Fund (NHF) at the Spanish Court Hotel on June 13, 2019.
His call came against the background of the low uptake by corporate entities in the Government’s campaign to encourage health and wellness among Jamaicans. Corporate Jamaica must see employees as the most valuable asset, the Minister asserts. Also, employees’ state of mind that enables the intellectual drive to enhance corporate competitiveness should be nurtured by motivation. Employees would be healthy and motivated to do their jobs well.
Change the Sick Profile
Indeed, Jamaica needs to change its ‘sick profile’ toward health and wellness. According to data cited by the Health and Wellness Minister, one in three Jamaicans is hypertensive, that is, living with high blood pressure. Obesity among Jamaicans is also high. The most recent Health and Lifestyle Survey, 2016-2017, reveals that one in two Jamaicans is classified as overweight or obese. Also, seven out of ten Jamaicans die from a lifestyle-related disease.
Undoubtedly, this drive toward health and wellness among Jamaicans, including employees, couldn’t come any sooner.
Staggering Healthcare Cost Burden
The cost burden on the country’s healthcare programme is staggering. The cost of care for citizens living with diabetes and hypertension alone has surpassed US$460 million. That is approximately six percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Naturally, when the cost of other non-communicable or lifestyle-related diseases is included, the healthcare bill escalates.
Not to mention the cost of healthcare to individuals. Spending on doctor’s visits, tests, hospitalization, specialist care, and other related costs is just as staggering. In a study a little more than ten years ago, the World Bank estimated that individual Jamaicans collectively bore a healthcare cost burden, including lost income, of J$47,882 million (US$641 million) in 2006 and 2007.
Clearly, on every level, Jamaica can no longer afford to continue life without health and wellness.
Wellness in Motion – GoJ’s Jamaica Moves Campaign
The Jamaican Government has in recent years championed the Jamaica Moves campaign to motivate Jamaicans of all walks of life to take their health and fitness seriously. This campaign includes messages to Jamaicans to exercise regularly, change harmful diets, and reduce stress. Corporate Jamaica is also encouraged to participate through team weight loss programmes, of which NHF’s Work-it-Out Weight Loss Challenge was a part.
Corporate wellness programmes are not the purview of only large enterprises in Jamaica. Even small companies can actively engage their employees in health and fitness activities.
Benefits of Employee Wellness
The benefits of a healthier workforce also translate into greater employee productivity and increased profit. One can say that a healthy workforce is a productive one. Absenteeism owing to illness is reduced, and the company saves the cost for temporary replacements for workers who are off sick. Also, company resources are free to address other corporate matters instead of dealing with chronically sick employees.
On the upside, a healthy workforce is also more energetic and creative. Corporate innovation increases with healthy employees. Naturally, a holistic approach to health and wellness is vital. Not only should companies focus on their employee’s physical health, but they must address mental, emotional, environmental, and spiritual health. Evidently, successful companies are those that invest heavily in the wellbeing of their employees.
The Narrative Must Change, Says Tufton
According to Dr. Tufton,
“There are thousands of companies in Jamaica who all they care about is that you show up for work, work as hard as you can and after you leave work, it doesn’t matter to them….what happens to you as long as you show up the next day.”
The narrative must change.
The Ministry of Health has adopted “wellness” as part of its mandate (and portfolio name) to encourage Jamaicans to take more responsibility for illness prevention. Such activities to prevent lifestyle-related illnesses like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity will transform the country into a healthier nation.
What Businesses Can Do
Among Dr. Tufton’s recommendations for employees’ wellness in corporate Jamaica are:
- bring a doctor in once or twice per annum to conduct tests on employees’ health status;
- engage fitness instructors to conduct workouts at the workplace at least once weekly,
- offer healthier menu choices for employees at the cafeteria.
Of course, the sky is the limit for the innovative ways Jamaican businesses can motivate their employees toward a healthier lifestyle. If the Ministry of Health and Wellness has its way, the entire country would be (in the words of the late Hon. Edward Seaga) full of vim, vigour, and vitality.
So, let’s get moving toward a healthier, wealthier Jamaica.