Georgia is very proud to be known nationally as the number one state to do business. We boast Fortune 500 headquarters and our recruitment efforts are second to none. Our economic development efforts have yielded major prospects, citing good quality of life and good business climate. The startup scene is growing and we now rank third in the country in film production.
However, one area where we consistently rank low is in public health and wellness. This is problematic for several reasons. First and foremost, the evidence increasingly shows that health and wealth are linked, and that those who lead healthy lifestyles are more likely to be better off financially. The link also moves in the opposite direction: those who are better off financially tend to be savvy healthcare consumers and participate in activities to improve their own health. As businesses increasingly make decisions based on available talent, healthy lifestyle options and healthcare will play a major role in where that talent is located.
The takeaway is this: If we want to continue to grow and recruit top-tier companies, we have to recognize that healthy communities must be part of that strategy. Health Means Business isn’t just a flashy tagline, it’s an economic reality.
We have significant challenges in addressing our public health network, many of which require action at either the state or federal level. The Georgia Chamber will continue to work on those issues, but there are other approaches we can take while those issues are discussed. Some of those approaches come from the way we build our communities to encourage healthy behaviors, while others come from employers who use incentives to help their employees reach their goals.
When looking to solve public policy challenges, we always look towards the market first to ask: “Are there strategies we can employ now, to improve the lives of Georgians and Georgia companies without government intervention?” In many cases the answer is yes, and we already have employers in our state who are proving that. People respond to incentives and they act rationally when you show that good health means more wealth.
We’re excited to be partnering with the Health Means Business Campaign – a new initiative by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to be showcasing companies and policymakers who are carrying out this exact task.
On September 15th, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with the Health Means Business campaign to host a Forum at the Morehouse School of Medicine. We plan to have a lengthy discussion about how private employers, non-profits, and policymakers can all work together to improve Georgia’s health outcomes through innovative strategies. The great news is that many of these strategies come directly from the private sector, through creative companies who are marketing products that positively impact health as well as public entities that are driving healthy behaviors without introducing new regulations. Our hope is that this can be a continuation of the discussion already taking place on the connection between health and business. Employers of all sizes, as well as those on the public or non-profit side are invited to attend. Like all important issues we tackle, this one will only be solved if we involve all the major players in our community.
We look forward to seeing you on September 15 at the Georgia Health Means Business Forum!