3 Ways Employers Can Address Social Determinants Of Health
Social determinants of health also referred to as vital conditions - are the conditions - both good and bad in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. They shape and influence employee experiences. Social determinants of health, social risk factors, and employees' social needs can impact employer business performance and profitability (Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) 2020).
Employers have a choice; they can ignore the social determinants of health for their employees or choose to address these factors along with other stakeholders within and outside the organisation. Either way, there will be consequences both intended and un-intended. We can have healthy and high-performing employees from the latter.
Employers certainly cannot address all the conditions affecting their employees’ social determinants of health and are expected to explore what is possible and feasible per time in partnership with their employees and other stakeholders.
Location influences access to food, transportation, safe housing, employment opportunities and healthcare. People living in improverished neighborhoods such as slums experience increased exposure to environmental risks.
Poverty has been linked to increased morbidity and mortality. Poverty negatively affects both quality of life and life expentancy.
Access and Availability of Healthy Foods
Good nutrition is critical to long-term health. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) , 116 million people faced moderate to severe food insecurity in Nigeria in 2018-2020. These included both workers and their families.
Loneliness has a significant impact on morbidity and mortality and impacts health outcomes in ways comparable to smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, high blood pressure and sedentary behaviour.
Employers need to recognise that social risk factors affect and directly impact employee's health and their contribution to the business. Employees living far from work with long commuting hours especially in big cities may compromise sleep and work-life balance.
Low-income workers including temporary, contract and even permanent employees at the bottom of the pay scale are especially vulnerable financially when they earn below living wage and are leftwith inadequate coverage for accommodation, feeding and healthcare (especially when both they and their families are excluded from their employers' health plan).
A lack of social connections at work andpersonal life has adverse effects on both health and productivity.
What kind of environment are your employeesexposed to? Stressful working conditions such as excessive work load and workdemand ,poor relationships with co-workers result in low productivity,increased absenteeism, substance abuse - alcohol and drugs, hypertension andcardiovascular problems.
Employees' level of education and skillsdevelopment determine their employment opportunities and promotion.
Gender and tribal or ethnic exclusion createtension and conflict at work and we also miss out on talent required forinnovation and growth.
Employers have the influence and capacity toform partnerships across their industries and also offer fulfilling employeeexperiences.
Employers can act to positively impactemployees at work. Most employees spend more than half of their waking time inwork related activities including commuting (those working from home also spendup to half).
Focus areas as highlighted by HERO 2020:
- Organisational philosophy - Socialise social determinants of health internally by naming and describing their significance. Educate business partners on financial management and health literacy. Train managers to recognise the impacts of social determinants of health on employee productivity and performance.
- Work cultural environment -Create policies and enforce practices that explicitly and implicitly value health. Develop leave policies that include caregiving for the elderly, children and partners or other relatives.
- Health and well-being benefits - Let employees share their social needs and listen. Support employees in utilising benefits and vendor partner resources. Destigmatise the use of resources and benefits
- Work scheduling and pay - Assess recruiting, hiring, scheduling and payment practices that hinder employee well-being. Consider pilots that promote employee flexibility and autonomy.
- Work-life integration
- Work physical environment
1.Social Determinants of Health - an EmployerPriority 2020 by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO)
2.Addressing social determinants of healthfor employers: Awareness, Accountability and Action 2020 by HERO.