How and Why Business Leaders Can Take Leadership Roles on Public Health Issues

Business leaders, by their very nature, possess skills that enable them to lead their organizations, meet pressing challenges, and respond to difficult problems. Some think it’s time for those who run their businesses to apply their expertise to solving even bigger problems, such as public health.

Advocacy role

Behavioral scientist Jacqueline Kerr is the host of the Overcoming Working Mom Burnout podcast. “For me, one role the C-Suite can play is to advocate for government policies to support [those] public health strategies that will benefit their employees. It seems like a no-brainer. We absolutely need our C-suite leaders to take a more active role on public health issues. »

She observed that “Even before Covid, health and work were inseparable; you need healthy employees to achieve your work goals. Research has repeatedly shown how a public health approach to employee health works; When the organization plays a role in providing programs, policies and environments that promote employee health, it reduces absenteeism and healthcare costs.

Refocus their efforts

Phillip Akhzar founded Arka, which provides eco-friendly solutions for filling, manufacturing and packaging products across the United States. He said: “Business leaders should refocus their efforts and become force multipliers when addressing public health issues. Enterprise infrastructure, especially at higher levels, can use so many resources and so much more in terms of expertise.

“Companies should all collaborate on the best way to use these assets. Companies that pride themselves on being active in the community can bring everyone together by implementing these plans and assets through collaborations with public and state health departments,” Akhzar emphasized.

What Frequently Motivates Business Involvement

Yosun Allen, CEO of Yosun UV Printer, observed that “corporate involvement in healthcare and public health is often driven by the goal of reducing healthcare costs and increasing employee productivity. . As critical as they are, we believe that today’s understanding of the many elements that contribute to improved health provides a reason for business to play an even greater role in promoting community health.

Beyond CSR

According to Allen, “this function could be based on fundamental business objectives that extend well beyond corporate social responsibility. Improving the health of the population requires much more than high-quality, low-cost health care. The business sector is essential for a number of determinants of health.

“Whereas corporate social responsibility must be encouraged and respected. Corporate social responsibility efforts often result in an increase in their company’s reputation and consumer loyalty. When a company represents the values ​​of its customers, for example by making a significant financial contribution to education, it makes customers feel good and strengthens the brand, he noted.

Helps make difficult decisions

Stephanie Simon is associate dean for strategic communications at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health. She said that “…throughout the pandemic, CEOs have been forced to make difficult decisions about the health and safety of employees – and the health and safety of the community, for that matter by them- themselves, with a minimum of advice”.

To help executives “get on a stronger footing,” she said in June, the school will launch a new certificate in public health for business leaders. Registration is now open.

“This comes against the backdrop of a slow but steady movement in C-suites nationwide to recognize the importance of integrating public health principles into their decision-making. EY has been one of the first major companies to create a new position of director of public health; Amazon and Salesforce were also pioneers,” she said.

According to Simon, the school’s new program will begin with a day and a half session, Leading in the Age of Health First: A Public Health Foundation for Business Success. Participants can then choose two other course options, including sustainability, global health, and employee wellbeing.

Classes will be co-taught by Harvard Chan faculty and executives who have hands-on experience with the issues, she said.

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