by Hannah Robinson
What does holistic health even mean? While you do your best to inform employees on the benefits available to them, listening to their concerns and adjusting from there, the healthcare system itself may be working against you. One of the major downfalls of western medicine is that if often takes a siloed approach that views patients as individual pieces (symptoms, history) instead of approaching their care holistically. This means to support more than just the body, but mind and spirit as well. And survey says (by One Poll) that 66% of employees seek employers that offer holistic health programs. Additionally, a case study conducted by the Social Market Foundation found that holistic health is a crucial part of the happiness-productivity objective.
With that said, the Validation Institute’s Health Benefits Nation Virtual Summit shined a light on how employers are getting closer to holistic, whole-person health through their benefits plans. Two specific questions were posed during the summit.
What strategies have you been implementing?
Diana Han is the Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Global Health and leads a team is responsible for 150,000 employees. When asked what Unilever has done in the past year to increase engagement or any change that has been helpful to implement, Unilever has scaled up their mental health champions network, a program connecting employees together. “Our employees are never more than one outreach away from a colleague who can provide a listening ear and I think the peer-to-peer connection is very powerful,” Diana shared. She explains it’s going back to “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”
At Unilever, the team is even addressing transportation insecurities and public health infrastructure –typically things that have not been within the scope of employee health and well-being initiatives. Diana stated, “Social determinants of health have been more important that ever before throughout the pandemic. [We have had to be] so much more creative about supporting the health and well-being of our workforce [and] acknowledging the realities of life as it encroaches clearly upon work.”
Unilever has strived to deploy a connectivity that “takes the handoffs between telehealth and digital ecosystem to humans so they are leveraged to the top of their capabilities.”
Nathan Gregory, Deputy Director of Human Resources for the City of Fort Worth, had a similar outlook. “We put in place multiple point solutions and focused on disease states that the data was telling us are the biggest challenges for our population.” Like many employers, the city is doubling down on a few areas of focus, including mental health needs, wellness programs and financial needs. Note that his team has put free programs into place that “reward you simply for staying well, or getting well.” As for holistic care, Nathan expanded, “we've tried to really focus in on the needs of our members through every part of their life.”
What do you see next in moving health and wellbeing forward?
For Unilever, this is viewed as a continuation in the journey. “To achieve demonstrable quantifiable, rigorous outcomes requires that we really select sort of the top three to five priorities across all the dimensions of health and wellbeing, and really stick to it in a very rigorous series of interventions.” She went on to mention that “deploying that connectivity between telehealth and the digital ecosystem to humans, so that digital technologies are doing a lot of the heavy lifting 24/7 has resulted in really good outcomes [for them].”
From the insights gleaned from these investments, improvement and integration can become a focus. For Unilever, this links the traditional world of health and wellbeing to the workplace itself, opening the door for more hybrid strategies as they become more mainstream.
Nathan had an important perspective to offer on this as well: “But until they need it,” he warned, “they're not going to care about it. They just aren't—they have way more other things. They've got kids at home and they've got lives to live and they've got all the things that go on in every person's life. It’s our job to make sure (I think as we move forward in health care) it is as simple as possible.”
To account for these needs, Nathan’s team has increased communications to educate his employees on the benefits available and is producing a “one-stop-shop", where employees can go to understand each of their benefit offerings from one location.
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social determinants of health