How Community Health Can Foster Economic Prosperity

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams explains that improving community health outcomes can help foster economic prosperity.


Air Date: September 17, 2020

Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Dr. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare a number of challenges that America is facing, including access to healthcare and overall health outcomes. Community health issues don’t just impact individual citizens, they also impact businesses’ bottom lines and the economy as a whole.

In a conversation with U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams discussed the important link between community health and economic prosperity.

The U.S. Health Disadvantage Impacts Both Individuals and the Economy

In his report on community health and economic prosperity, Adams explored the state of American health and how it impacts our bottom line.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic, we knew the health of Americans wasn’t as good as it could be and was worse than the health of people in other wealthy nations,” explained Adams. “Even as we pay more for healthcare than any other nation in the world.”

“We call this the U.S. health disadvantage: the fact that we pay more and get less for what we’re paying than any other country,” he continued. “America’s poor health status inflicts costs on people, families, businesses and on society.”

The issue has only been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic: “The virus has claimed more lives among those with certain underlying conditions and it’s disrupted our economy significantly,” Adams said. “Many … people lost employer-sponsored health insurance."

“The U.S. health disadvantage increases healthcare costs, but it also lowers productivity and competitiveness and compromises business success and growth,” Adams added. “If you don’t have healthy supply chains, if you don’t have consumers who can actually go out and buy your products, if you don’t have a workforce who can come in and actually do the job — all these are part of you being successful as a business.”

Companies Are Finding Unique Ways to Contribute to Community Health

In an effort to combat the U.S. health disadvantage, many businesses are finding unique ways to improve the health of their local communities. One such company is Indiana-based Belden, which found it was having trouble filling jobs because not enough people could pass drug screening. Their solution: screen candidates upfront and offer them the resources they need to pass.

“If people fail the drug screen, they’ve connected them with community organizations that can get them into treatment and recovery; and if they’re successful in treatment and recovery, then they save a job for them,” Adams explained. “They found that employees who complete this program actually miss less work than people who don’t have a substance use disorder. [Companies should be] thinking outside the box, but recognizing that the health of the community and the health of individuals in the community ultimately impacts your healthy bottom line.”

This event was hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.


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