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David Minton, director of The Leisure Database Company, reports on the recent EU/UK Health and Productivity Forum

protecting your assets


owards the end of the 19th century, three now famous philanthropists were working to improve the quality of life

of their employees: Joseph Rowntree in York, the Cadbury brothers in Bournville and Lord Lever at Port Sunlight were all building model garden villages and communities where employees enjoyed conditions, pay, hours and benefits far exceeding their competitors in similar industries. Four years after Lord Lever’s death,

his enterprises were amalgamated as Unilever, which, by 1930, employed a quarter of a million people and, in terms of market value, was the largest company in Britain. Today, Unilever employs 300,000

people in 150 countries and Dr John Cooper, head of corporate occupational health since 1998, has a mandate to establish a global occupational health strategy for the whole company. Unilever is still pioneering studies in increasing business benefi ts of a healthy workforce and, in its newly refurbished HQ in London, it hosted the sixth Annual EU/ UK Health and Productivity Forum. The forum was organised by the Institute for Health and Productivity Management and took place last November.

reducing down-time Back in 1878 it seemed both logical and

morally sound, to a few philanthropists, that a healthy environment would deliver a healthy workforce, and over 100 years later it’s possible to quantify the value-based health benefits. Today, encouraging employees to embrace a healthy and fitter lifestyle pays off with reduced absenteeism due to sickness. At the same time, employees have more


energy throughout the day and can concentrate for longer. Fitter and healthier people tend to have more self-confidence, which in turn can inspire confidence and produce a more positive attitude among colleagues and customers. Business owners and managers around

the world know that their most important assets are their employees, and figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) provide an idea of the scale and importance of a healthy workforce. Every day, around 1.7 billion people between the ages of 40 and 65 get up and go to work. This group makes up one-quarter of the world’s population and most are at the peak of their earning and spending power. For example, of all the income earned by workers in the US and the UK, two-thirds is brought home by those between the ages of 40 and 65. Commensurate with their income, these people pay the highest tax rates, and so shoulder the bulk of costs of financing the government’s health, education and other public services.

quantifiable results Over two days, attendees at the Health

and Productivity Forum discovered many global examples of the value- added benefi ts of a healthy and fi tter workforce, but one surprisingly close to home came from occupational health practitioner Dr Marianne Dyer. Formerly a Royal Air Force medic, Dr Dyer has been appointed medical director of Park

Health, the occupational medical service for the construction of the London 2012 Olympics. The nature of construction brings

with it a large burden of occupational illness: it’s a high hazard industry. A strategic approach to prevention, on- site clinical intervention and health promotion have all been put in place on the London 2012 project, including

– for the fi rst time – pre-employment screening of those working to ensure they are fi t and safe to do so. It’s estimated that having an

occupational health team has so far saved the companies involved in the Olympic Park 52,000 working hours. The wider community has also benefi ted from a quantifi able reduction in the impact on local health services, compared to the levels any major construction project would normally generate. Other speakers from a number

of global brands gave compelling presentations of how their health and fi tness programmes became integral and essential parts of the companies’ strategic and tactical business practices. They focused on the modern day corporate’s awareness of its role, responsibilities and benefi ts in terms of the health and fi tness of its employees. Most speakers produced evidence to demonstrate the resulting additional engagement and performance at work, which often translated into additional shareholder value.

Having an occupational health team at the Olympic Park has saved 52,000 working hours

Read Health Club Management online at february 2011 © cybertrek 2011

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