Anywhere from 10% to 50%—depending on leadership
Corporate Wellness—The 4Leaf Vision of a Whole New Ballgame
Background. For most businesses in the United States, disease and the cost of health care are huge problems. Not only does “disease care” cost a lot of money, it also takes its toll on employee productivity, creativity, absenteeism and morale. And the numbers are staggering.
According to a Towers Watson survey (See link below) of 512 medium to large American companies, the average total health expenditures per employee in 2011 was $10,982. So for an organization of 1,000 people, that’s an annual medical bill of roughly $11 million, most of which is paid by the company. If you’ve got 10,000 employees, then the bill is about $110 million.
What about traditional corporate wellness programs? Virtually all of the 512 companies in the survey already have a wellness program in place—yet the cost of healthcare keeps going up. That’s because those programs are missing the single most important ingredient—The FOOD. By simply helping people improve what they’re eating, those health care bills can be cut in half. We estimate that for any organization—the cost of health care can be cut by 10 to 50% or more. Why the wide range in the estimate? Leadership. That’s the big variable. The question is:
How important will this health promotion initiative be in your organization?
Leadership is key. We have concluded that the degree of success for this type of project hinges on the understanding and the degree of leadership from the top executive in the organization—the CEO, the President or the General Manager. So we are committed to finding those special business leaders out there who are ready to do something great for their employees, the families of those employees and the bottom line of their business—by teaching everyone in the organization how to take charge of their health.
To see a Fortune 200 company who truly “gets it” about food, scroll to the end of this blog for a compelling five-minute video. John Mackey (CEO), after showing that their annual $200 million cost of healthcare at Whole Foods Market has started dropping since 2010, states, “If a program works—get more of it, and this program works!”
But will the people actually change? It is our experience that when people become educated about the “big picture” impact of their food choices—many of them will voluntarily change—for any number of reasons. But, by offering an opportunity to participate in a well-organized corporate program, the odds of that positive change rise sharply. Five reasons:
- Leadership. With a CEO and executive team that truly “gets it” about food, they are in a position to influence behavior in a group setting. They can also celebrate successes with many forms of positive reinforcement. They can make truly healthy eating an integral part of the company culture.
- Education. The leaders of the enterprise can organize and conduct training far beyond what the employees might do on their own. They can even arrange for that training to be conducted at the place of business—during working hours. Many companies have employee cafeterias that can become a huge asset during the process.
- Peer support. By organizing program participants into groups or teams, each employee will have the benefit of receiving support and encouragement from their teammates—and they will all be accountable to each other.
- Incentives. The CEO has the ability to provide financial incentives to participate and to achieve success. Examples: discounts on company products, lower cost of health coverage, discounts in company cafeteria, and even cash bonuses.
- Green Initiative. Most corporations already have green initiatives but are missing the single biggest opportunity to truly make a difference. This element is a motivator for the individual and is a way for the company to enhance their public image.
More good news. Certainly the opportunity for a medium-sized corporation (10,000 employees) to save $30 or $40 million a year on health costs would be fantastic! But there are other benefits from such a program that might be even more important to the long-term success of the enterprise. For example:
- Less absenteeism
- Higher productivity
- Better morale
- Less employee turnover
- Better public image (most admired, best place to work, greenest company, etc.)
A strategic business advantage. As the first wave of CEOs begins to take advantage of the many benefits that come from a healthier workforce, their primary competitors may have trouble competing with them unless they launch similar initiatives. As such, true health promotion improves the ability of the enterprise to gain market share—yet another reason why it must be led by the CEO. We’re talking about a strategic advantage as powerful as having an automobile company that doesn’t have to pay a dime for all of its steel.
GM spent $4.6 billion on health care in 2007, more than the cost of steel used in their vehicles.
Real world examples. The medical doctors featured in our book have been reversing chronic disease for decades by simply introducing their patients to a health-promoting diet that features mostly whole, plant-based foods, still in nature’s package. But, as we know, you don’t really need to have an M.D. to take charge of your health; you just need to start getting the vast majority of your calories from whole, plant-based foods.
Recently, these powerful principles have been harnessed by two very large organizations. The latest one is the City of Chicago, under the leadership of their triathlete mayor, Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff. Now we have two CEO role models for healthy eating; Mr. Emanuel and John Mackey of Whole Foods Market.
- America’s fittest mayor (Chicago) goes PLANT-STRONG! He aims to cut his $480 million healthcare bill in half.
- Promoting health and saving money at Whole Foods Market (Also, there is short video of John Mackey later in this blog.)
- Earlier Case Study at GEICO. The GEICO health promotion project
Big Medicine is finally coming around. Although our medical doctors receive little if any nutritional training in med school, they are the primary gatekeepers when it comes to advising patients about what they should be eating. And since most of the doctors eat the Standard American Diet (the S.A.D.) themselves, naturally that is what they advise their patients to eat. That practice has resulted in the sickest nation on Earth with by far the highest cost of healthcare. But things are finally beginning to change. From the Spring 2013 Kaiser Permanente Journal:
The objective of this article is to present to physicians an update on plant-based diets. Concerns about the rising cost of health care are being voiced nationwide, even as unhealthy lifestyles are contributing to the spread of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, physicians looking for cost-effective interventions to improve health outcomes are becoming more involved in helping their patients adopt healthier lifestyles.
Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.
Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.
Of all the diets recommended over the last few decades to turn the tide of these chronic illnesses, the best but perhaps least common may be those that are plant based…Despite the strong body of evidence favoring plant-based diets, including studies showing a willingness of the general public to embrace them, many physicians are not stressing the importance of plant- based diets as a first-line treatment for chronic illnesses. This could be because of a lack of awareness of these diets or a lack of patient education resources. (See link #12 below to view the complete Kaiser Pemanente Journal source document.)
This is exactly what has been needed to promote health and reduce disease, obesity and the outrageous cost of healthcare in the United States. Now begins the process of helping the doctors learn about the awesome power of plant-based nutrition and how to best convey that knowledge to their patients. See link #13 below to learn about the first ever “plant-based nutrition healthcare conference,” where physicians can earn CME credits while learning how to reverse disease and promote health in their patients.
A little background. For most of my business career, I have been involved in managing change, raising productivity, reducing costs and increasing profits in a host of organizations. As a president, general manager or as a management consultant, I have employed the same “process-improvement” skills to identify waste and increase profitability—in a wide variety of business settings.
I now wish to leverage my business background with more recently acquired knowledge of the whole foods, plant-based diet-style to help businesses reduce costs and improve productivity. The beauty of this opportunity is the simplicity. In a nutshell, we want to help employees learn the “why” and the “how” for greatly increasing the amount of whole, plant-based foods in their diets. And we want to give them an incentive to move in that direction as rapidly as possible.
J. Morris Hicks and the Ansley Consulting Group are now offering hefty referral fees for client introductions.
Project details. Our role in these projects will be to help educate, facilitate, organize, train, administer, report, celebrate and assist the top executive in every possible way to help all of the employees decide to take charge of their own health.
Realistically, we know that many of the employees will not take advantage of this opportunity, but a great many of them will—enough of them to make a sizable dent in the overall cost of health care for the enterprise. Further, their energy, enthusiasm and morale boost will be felt throughout the entire organization.
And it all begins with providing the opportunity for ALL employees to take charge of their own health. In so doing, they help themselves, their families, their planet and their employer who would be making all of this possible.
Meet. Dr. John McDougall. In the following 13-miniute video, he talks about projects at Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Publix Markets and the latest (2012) at Whole Foods Market. CEO John Mackey talks candidly about the benefits of the process.
While we might very well employ an intensive program like the one described above for certain high-risk/cost employees, our primary effort is to work with our client in developing an employee health promotion program that can be executed by company employees in perpetuity. We’re talking about weaving this program into the cultural fabric of the organization.
Dr. McDougall talks about savings of 44% (of healthcare expenditures) in the test groups of employees at Blue Cross (1999-2001). We’re talking about making the changes permanent and making it available to ALL employees—even the part-timers who’re not receiving health care benefits.
Finally, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey shares with us how he began conducting the “immersion” programs. He called it part of creating a “wellness culture” at Whole Foods— a win-win for all concerned: the employees, their families and the shareholders of the corporation. At one point in the following 5-minute video, he showed a graph clearly indicating that the overall cost of health care had peaked and was beginning to come down at their company.
As he says, “If a program works, get more of it.” The proposition is simple: Promote health and the cost of health care comes down!
I used the word “we” a few times in this article. That’s because we have a team of highly experienced consultants, dietitians, doctors, nurses and health educators who are ready to tackle even the largest of organizations. Please contact me to discuss further.
Do you know any business leaders who might be interested? Please give me a call at 917-399-9700. Or send me an email at email@example.com. For a summary of our expertise in food-based wellness, see Consulting Credentials—J. Morris Hicks
- Related blog. Are corporate wellness programs working?
- Referral fees? Reaching the leaders who save $$ when we get healthy
- Related blog. Cost of healthcare: Top concern for small business CEOs…
- Related blog. When the vast majority of people are obese…
- Related blog. Health insurance of the future; an idea that can work.
- Letter to Ford. Urgent letter to Bill Ford — Chairman of Ford Motor Company
- Passionate executive leadership. Here’s what it looks like. (10-minute video)
- Data source. Towers Watson 2012 Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care
- Health costs in general. Health spending still going up—with no end in sight.
- Healthcare $PIE. A look at the cost of health care PIE—in the USA
- “Seriously Impressive” Corporate Wellness Programs — coming up short.
- Kaiser Permanente Spring 2013 Journal. Article on Plant-Based Diets.
- Teaching medical doctors all about whole foods, plant-based nutrition. pbnhc.com
- J. Morris Hicks. Experience and qualifications for this kind of consulting
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The ”big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now
For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen. Got a question? Let me hear from you at email@example.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation