• Promoting a Healthier Workforce

    Health and Productivity Management

  • Workforce Health and Productivity Summit

    About the Workforce Health and Productivity Summit

    What is the Workforce Health and Productivity Summit?

    The Workforce Health and Productivity Summit is a gathering of national leaders from public and private sector organizations convened to discuss issues related to health and productivity in the workplace, advance knowledge and understanding of these issues and to find ways to strengthen the health and productivity of the national workforce. The first national summit was held Nov. 5-7, 2008, in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.

    Who attends the summit?

    A broad cross section of public and private sector leaders with expertise in workforce health and productivity participate, ranging from employers and payors to researchers, physicians and government officials. More than 30 individuals participated in the inaugural event.

    What is the goal of the summit?

    The goal is to advance health and productivity strategies that view employee health as a key driver of enterprise performance and productivity. The summit also aims to bolster a better understanding of the long-term workforce and societal implications of health and productivity, and to explore the implementation of health and productivity initiatives. Discussions and recommendations focus on the key components and best practices needed for successful health and productivity improvement, the impact of evidence-based medicine on health and productivity, directions in research, explorations of future workforce health strategies, the business case for investment in health and productivity initiatives, and strategies for advancing awareness of health and productivity concepts.

    What happens during the summit?

    Participants engage in small-group discussions related to several key questions about health and productivity.  At the end of the conference, consensus recommendations from the group are offered, outlining steps that can be taken to better manage health-related productivity and ensure a healthy workforce. A formal report from the inaugural event, offering analysis and background in addition to the general recommendations, will be released in early 2009.

    What kinds of topics does the summit address?

    Discussions focus on:

    • Moving the workplace toward a model that dramatically increases the emphasis on wellness, prevention and savings in lost time and lost productivity, in concert with quality improvement in the treatment of illness and the management of disability.
    • Determining the best role for Evidence-based Medicine (EBM) to play in the management of workforce health and productivity.
    • Understanding what effective health and productivity management initiatives might look like in the workplace of the future.
    • Developing strategies that could encourage employers and payors to embrace health and productivity enhancement as a long-term vision and as an important component of overall health care reform.

    Who hosts the summit?

    The Workforce Health and Productivity Summit is jointly hosted by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI).  ACOEM represents nearly 5,000 physicians and other health care professionals specializing in the field of occupational and environmental medicine. Founded in 1916, ACOEM is the nation’s largest medical society dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, research and education. IBI provides employers and their supplier partners with resources for proving the business value of health. A nonprofit supplier of  health and productivity research, measurement and benchmarking, IBI’s programs, resources and expert networks advance understanding about the link between – and the impact of – health-related productivity on corporate profitability. Funding for the summit has been provided by sanofi-aventis, a global pharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, produces and markets innovative therapies. Its research and development efforts are focused on health care challenges in cardiology, oncology and internal medicine, as well as metabolic diseases, central nervous system disorders and vaccines.

    What is the link between health and productivity and the workforce?

    Enlightened employers are realizing that healthy employees are a key driver of enterprise performance and productivity.  Investments in health and safety can bring impressive cost savings and productivity gains. As a result, the practice of health and productivity improvement has emerged. Health and productivity improvement rests on the idea that comprehensive, integrated workforce health enhancement can lower health risks, reduce the burden of illness, improve productivity and reduce health-related costs – both to the employer and, more generally, to society as a whole.

    How do health and productivity improvement initiatives work?

    At the heart of health and productivity programming is measurement of total workforce health-related costs, including medical/pharmacy/absenteeism/presenteeism costs; accurate evaluation of the health risk factors and health conditions that are driving those costs; and the creation of evidence- and value-based health enhancement programs and strategies for workers.

    How does the employee benefit from health and productivity improvement initiatives?

    Well-designed health and productivity improvement initiatives keep employees healthier and create a better work environment. Healthy workers are self-fulfilled, more satisfied and enjoy greater vitality in their personal life as well as their work life; their lives are better integrated on all levels – including the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social aspects of health and well-being.

    What are the societal benefits of health and productivity improvement initiatives?

    The good health of employees touches on their families and communities and it impacts the workplace, where they are naturally more productive – they are able to contribute more to their vocations for more years and they place much less burden on the health care system. Employers who implement health and productivity improvement initiatives, in turn, experience better results, enhanced productive capacity and stronger bottom lines. The nation’s economic infrastructure benefits from greater competitive ability, higher productive output and a more stable health system and entitlement programs.

    Why is a National Summit on Health and Productivity Needed?

    The health care crisis in the United States must be addressed urgently – and workforce health is a vital part of the discussion.

    • When an employer’s medical/pharmacy costs are added to health-related productivity costs such as absenteeism and presenteeism (a condition in which employees are on the job but not fully productive), the average estimated full-cost impact in the United States is nearly $13,000 per employee.1, 2 Using U.S. Department of Labor statistics showing approximately 137 million non-farm employees in the United States, the overall annual cost impact on the workplace is an estimated $1.7 trillion.
    • Chronic health conditions are on the rise in the United States, and it is estimated that in the near future conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer will cost employers heavily as they provide medical benefits for employees and absorb the costs of long- and short-term disability claims.3  Almost 50 percent of Americans have at least one chronic health condition, and of these, almost half have multiple chronic conditions.4 A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Johns Hopkins estimated that more than 80 percent of medical spending goes toward care for chronic health conditions.5
    • Both public and private sector leaders have begun to understand that the future of the nation’s economy and entitlement programs is inextricably linked to a healthy, well-functioning workforce. The employer perspective is key here, as the workplace (employer and employee contributions combined) accounts for well over half of the funding for the American healthcare system.6
    • In an environment in which health costs are skyrocketing, health-improvement measures aimed at the nation’s millions of workers could have significant long-term impact, potentially saving hundreds of billions in long-term health costs.7
    • Without a healthy, able and available workforce, the United States will find it difficult to compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.


    1. Loeppke R, Taitel M, Richling D, et al. “Health and Productivity as a Business Strategy,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2007;49:712-721.

    2. Towers Perrin Annual Health Care Cost Survey, 2008

    3. Thorpe K. Factors accounting for the rise in health care spending in the United States: the role of rising disease prevalence and treatment intensity. Public Health. 2006;120:1002-7.

    4. "Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care," September 2004 Update to “Chronic Care in America: A 21st Century Challenge,” a study of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Partnership for Solutions: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.

    5. Ibid

    6. 2007 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey

    7. Loeppke R. The value of health and the power of prevention. Int J Workplace Health Manage. 2008;1(2)95-108.