Innovative companies know how important it is to promote health equity in today’s dynamic workplace. Employee well-being is not just a perk; it’s foundational for long-term cultural success. Health equity goes beyond providing basic health insurance to your employees – it’s about understanding how social environments and systemic barriers impact employee health. Tackling healthcare access inequities, fostering truly inclusive work environments, and launching proactive wellness initiatives equate to a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.

By unlocking the power of health equity, companies can actively promote health equity initiatives and embody change for employees’ physical and mental health. A healthier, happier workforce supercharges employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. Improving health for all translates to reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, allowing talent to be fully present and contribute their best.

This guide will discuss Social Determinants of Health and why addressing health disparities is mission-critical for successful organizations. We’ll explain how employers can promote health equity in the workplace, including tips to create more inclusive workplaces.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What are Social Determinants of Health?

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are conditions that exist where people live, learn, work, and play.

Examples include:

  • Quality housing
  • Reliable transportation
  • Physical safety
  • Racism and discrimination
  • Education and job opportunities
  • Nutritious foods and physical activity
  • Support systems and community
  • Environmental conditions

Factors influencing health affect a wide range of human functioning and quality-of-life outcomes. And health equity extends beyond healthcare access. Forward-thinking organizations offer empowering financial wellness programs, culturally relevant healthcare resources, healthy foods, and physical activity and wellness education opportunities. These efforts foster a sense of belonging and total well-being and create a thriving workplace environment.

Understanding and actively addressing Social Determinants of Health and well-being is essential for promoting equity in a global, people-first workplace. Authentically embody the principles of equity and intentional diversity by acknowledging and mitigating the impact of systemic barriers and social environments on employee health. And cultivate an environment where equitable opportunities for well-being and success are at the forefront for your workforce.

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH)

Social Determinants of Health: Education Access and Quality, Healthcare Access and Quality, Neighborhood and Built Environment, Social and Community Context, and Economic Stability.

The importance of addressing health disparities

Health disparities are preventable differences in any person’s opportunity to achieve optimal health. Race, gender, age, socioeconomic factors, and geographical location can all influence health parity. Rural Americans face numerous health disparities compared with their urban counterparts. Overcoming obstacles like environmental pollution, barriers to healthcare access by race, and food and healthcare deserts is essential to addressing health disparities. More than 80% of counties across the U.S. lack proper access to the services needed to maintain health, according to analysis from GoodRx Research.

In the U.S., health inequities are experienced acutely by the BIPOC community, women, people with disabilities, and people who are LGBTQ. Today, women are more likely to be misdiagnosed or take longer to be diagnosed with heart disease and some cancers than men. And their symptoms are more likely to be written off as anxiety, in line with the history of sexism in medicine.

Companies can champion their employees’ total well-being by recognizing how social structures influence health outcomes, especially for historically marginalized populations. Health equity and race are inextricably tied. And racial and ethnic disparities account for lack of access to healthcare. Vulnerable populations experience higher rates of morbidity and lower life expectancy than their white counterparts.

For example, Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States — almost three times the rate for white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black babies are more likely to die or to be born prematurely, setting the stage for health issues that could follow them through their lives. Awareness of maternal health and disparities is critical to understanding health equity.

How to promote health equity for inclusive workplaces

Companies that want to promote health equity have a great deal of power to design inclusive policies and programs to meet the unique needs of their workforce. Inclusive health equity initiatives empower employees of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to prioritize their well-being by removing obstacles to quality healthcare, providing knowledge and resources that respect their unique needs, and creating a sense of belonging that supports both physical and mental health.

Companies can actively promote health equity and create inclusive workplaces by addressing the complex interplay of social determinants and health inequities. Offering comprehensive health benefits, implementing relevant wellness programs, encouraging a culture of inclusion, and promoting workplace flexibility are all powerful strategies for achieving health equity.

Offer comprehensive health benefits

Ensure all employees access quality, affordable healthcare and mental health services. Comprehensive health benefits are a powerful way for companies to achieve health equity. By ensuring all employees have access to quality preventive care, essential treatments, telehealth, and mental health resources, companies break down significant barriers to optimal health. This approach directly addresses disparities often faced by marginalized groups and empowers all employees to thrive.

Implement workplace wellness

Workplace wellness plays a vital role in promoting health equity for employees. Plenty of evidence suggests that a healthier diet and movement can help reduce disease risk. Offer diverse activities like yoga and meditation for stress reduction and financial wellness programs.

Add wellness rooms in the workplace to encourage physical activity, relaxation, hobbies, and other practices that contribute to well-being. Emerging Food is Medicine programs promote access to nutritious food and healthy eating habits. Positive habits are contagious, and workplace wellness initiatives empower your people to take control of their health and hold space for them to address their unique needs.

Promote flexibility

Flexibility in the workplace is crucial for achieving health equity. Companies empower employees to manage their health appointments, childcare needs, and mental well-being by offering flexible work hours, generous paid time off, and equitable leave. Remote or hybrid work options may enable employees to live in a healthier geographic location with a stronger support network. Flexible work recognizes employees’ unique challenges and creates a work environment where everyone can thrive.

Create a culture of inclusivity

Fostering a culture of workplace inclusion where everyone feels safe and celebrated in their unique identity is essential for achieving health equity for employees. By celebrating race and ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation and creating open channels for employees to share feedback and concerns, companies create a supportive environment where everyone feels heard and valued. A strong sense of belonging empowers employees to prioritize their mental and physical health, leading to a healthier, more resilient workforce.

Lifestyle benefits to promote health equity and inclusion

Your people deserve the opportunity to achieve their highest level of health and total well-being. Lifestyle benefits provide funds for wellness-related activities, and organizations can structure Lifestyle Spending Accounts to achieve health equity. Integrating them within wellness programs can motivate employees to adopt healthier, more active lifestyles.

LSAs and health equity initiatives are at the forefront of shaping the future of work for all. The built-in flexibility of LSAs allows employees to invest in their health. Discover how an LSA with Espresa can help support your employees – reach out to one of our workplace benefit experts today for a demo!

 

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