Healthy Corporate House Means Healthy Nation


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Indian economy is growing at a greater pace compared to
other countries in the world. The country can boast of home to some of the large corporate houses. The footprints of many of these companies are present in many countries. Fifty-six Indian companies have found a place in Forbes Global 2000 ranking for 2010.1 Though exact data is hard to find, around 55 to 60 million individuals are working in some of the largest corporate houses in India.

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Healthy Corporate House Means Healthy Nation

  1. 1. Healthy Corporate House Means Healthy Nation
  2. 2. Review Article Healthy corporate house means healthy nation Suneela Garg a , Akash Malik b , Ritesh Singh c, * a Director Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India b Junior Resident, Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India c Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine and JNM Hospital, Kalyani, Nadia, West Bengal 741235, India a r t i c l e i n f o Article history: Received 27 September 2012 Accepted 8 May 2013 Available online 23 May 2013 Keywords: Corporate Health CSR a b s t r a c t India is now an economic powerhouse. The country is home to some of the best global companies. These companies provide various services to the society through corporate social responsibility initiatives. These are their obligations toward the society in which they function. In providing quality health care to the community and society as large many a times companies forget about the health status of their own employees. The health status of the employees is overlooked and companies take heath of the employees for granted. They think that to maintain a good health is an employee concern. Nothing concrete is provided by the companies to maintain good health of its employees. The corporate houses need to understand that a healthy workforce is in their benefit. The balance sheet will be healthy only if the people working for the company are healthy. Copyright ª 2013, Indraprastha Medical Corporation Ltd. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Indian economy is growing at a greater pace compared to other countries in the world. The country can boast of home to some of the large corporate houses. The footprints of many of these companies are present in many countries. Fifty-six In- dian companies have found a place in Forbes Global 2000 ranking for 2010.1 Though exact data is hard to find, around 55 to 60 million individuals are working in some of the largest corporate houses in India. With the liberalization of trade and commerce in the ‘90s’, corporate sector is currently in a very significant position to lead the economy of India in forward direction. The corporate sector has become the engine of economic growth of the country. However growing di- mensions come along with greater responsibility. There is a growing expectation that the corporate sector should contribute in improving the quality of life of communities in the area where they are located. The corporate sector should understand their responsibility towardtoward the society, and should address the issues and challenges relevant for the betterment of the society. The phrase ‘corporate social re- sponsibility’ or CSR as defined by the World Business Council for Sustained Development is “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large”.2 Thus as clear from the above definition CSR, a company is obligated to provide quality health care services to its em- ployees, local community and finally to the society at large. Many companies do meet their later two obligations quite diligently for fear of regulatory authorities or for their genuine love toward the society. The question that arises is have the corporates been working toward a healthy manpower and workforce? Is it possible for the corporates to aim toward a healthy community or society without a healthy workforce? This article aims to answer the above question. * Corresponding author. E-mail address: (R. Singh). Available online at journal homepage: a p o l l o m e d i c i n e 1 0 ( 2 0 1 3 ) 1 8 1 e1 8 4 0976-0016/$ e see front matter Copyright ª 2013, Indraprastha Medical Corporation Ltd. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. 2. Healthy workforce leading to healthy society If the workforce of a company is not fit enough how can that company engage in CSR activities related to providing good health to community. Globally, approximately 65% of the pop- ulation aged over 15 years is part of some industrial workforce.3 The “economically active population” comprises all people of either sex who supply labor for the production of goods and services. In 2007, nearly 3.1 billion people were economically active; this figure is estimated to exceed 3.6 billion in 2020.3 Ac- cording to the world health report, work related risk factors are responsible for the loss of about 30 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) globally.4 Out of these, the South East Asian Region (SEAR) countries account for a loss of over 8 million DALYs (27% of the total) and the highest regional burden of disease are attributable to occupational risk factors. These include occupational injuries, workplace exposure to carcino- gens, dust, noise and ergonomic stressors. For a basic under- standing of the root of societal responsibility to protect health and safety of the working population, one must look at the ob- jectives of occupational health which is “Occupational health should aim at the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers inall occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and mainte- nance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities. In summary: “the adap- tation of work to man, and of each man to his job”.5 The workplace has been recognized internationally as an appropriate setting for health promotion. The importance of workplace health promotion was addressed in 1950 and later updated in 1995 in a joint International Labor Organization/ World Health Organization session on occupational health. Since this time, health promotion in the workplace has been broadly recommended by international bodies through numerouscharters and declarations, including the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion,6 the 1997 Jakarta Declaration on Leading Health Promotion into the 21st Century7 and the 2005 Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion in a Globalized World.8 The corporates houses need to understand that the health of an employee and the health of the society are closely related to eachother.Unhealthyworkingconditionsandvariousindustrial hazards towhicha workeris exposed bringshardshipnotonlyto the workerhimselfbutalsoto hisfamily. Indeveloping countries like ours, an industrial worker is usually the sole earner of his family. She/he devotes a major portion of his youth working in a ‘not-so-healthy’ working atmosphere. In majority of instances s/ he is without anyhealth insurance or social security. Poor health of workforce has economic ramifications. This is evident form the fact that globally a loss of 4e5% of gross domestic product (GDP) is attributable to occupational risk factors.9,10 3. Need for a targeted approach The corporates first need to commit themselves toward the health of each and every individual working for them. Later when the workforce is healthy companies can venture to improve the health of communities and society. The first step should be the identification of the diseases common at workplace and related risk factors. The assessment and management of health risks at the workplace should be improved by: defining essential interventions for prevention and control of mechanical, physical, chemical, biological and psychosocial risks in the working environment. This should be followed by preventative screening of each and every employee for identified risk factors and diseases and finally bringing in planned interventions like initiation of awareness programs and moving up to the referral of symptomatic in- dividuals for proper treatment. The interventions for specific disease groups are described below. 3.1. Non-communicable diseases In 2005, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) accounted for 60% of all projected deaths worldwide e i.e. an estimated 35 million people died of NCDs.11 Low- and middle-income countries account for 80% of the deaths from NCDs world- wide. The five major NCDs are heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. There is strong scientific evidence that healthy diet and adequate physical activity (i.e. 30 min of moderate intensity physical activity for 5 days a week) play an important role in the prevention of these diseases. Furthermore, it is estimated that approxi- mately 80% of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancers can be prevented through inexpensive and cost- effective interventions that address the primary risk factors.11 India is suffering from a large burden of non- communicable diseases (NCD), and being one of the youn- gest nations with the largest workforce, there is a significant opportunity for the corporate sector in India to act against NCDs through innovative strategies which could set an example for other countries. The underlying socio cultural, environmental and political determinants of NCDs include urbanization, globalization, and subsequent lifestyle changes. The most important modifiable risk factors for NCDs include tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, poor dietary habits and physical inactivity. Thus the various health strategies drafted for NCDs at workplace, should target these important risk factors in form of nutrition education, nutrition handouts; health promotion activities like awareness about alcohol, to- bacco use and drug addiction. The corporate houses should promote activities which lead to decrease in stress manage- ment like conducting yoga sessions, setting meditation and counseling centers, providing stress management handouts, and in-house gym to encourage the employees to remain physically active. The corporate should subscribe to maga- zines dealing with health concerns and health promotion. It should have sufficient books and periodicals written for lay person in a very lucid way dealing with common health concerns. 3.2. Communicable diseases Although disease pattern changes constantly, communicable diseases remain the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in India. Despite policies and interventions to prevent and a p o l l o m e d i c i n e 1 0 ( 2 0 1 3 ) 1 8 1 e1 8 4182
  4. 4. control communicable diseases, India has failed to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases. According to WHO data on the global burden of disease and the distribution of diseases among countries, communicable diseases contribute to 40% of the total DALYs in the world, and 44% of DALYs in India.12 According to a recent study of 25 developing countries,13 a decrease in the growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) by three percentage points in Asia and the Pacific is likely to translate into 10 million more undernourished people, 56,000 more deaths among children 5 years old, and 2000 more mothers dying in childbirth. It would further delay in achieving the targets set Million Development Goals by United Nations. The decreasing global funding for the communicable diseases due to recession in global economy might, in turn, affect national disease control programs. Thus the corporate sector should work hand in hand with the government to help curb the burden of communicable diseases in India. By targeting their workforce in terms of prevention and treatment of communicable diseases the corporates would not only decrease the burden of the gov- ernment in terms of the population coverage but would also ease the pressure on the country’s fiscal budget in the current economic slowdown worldwide. The various strategies which may be employed in terms of prevention and control of communicable diseases can be immunization against vaccine preventable diseases, development of knowledge as well as counseling programs for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and personal and workplace hygiene. 4. How would the corporate benefit? The burden of NCDs which translates to increase number of sick days of employees has an impact not only on the quality of life of affected individuals and their families, but also on the country’s socioeconomic structure. World Health Organiza- tion estimates that the loss of national income of different countries will be dramatic due to this sickness absenteeism. For example, it is estimated that India will lose around 227 billion international dollars from 2005 to 2015 as result of the burden of NCDs. Furthermore, ensuring a healthy manpower is not only the moral responsibility of the corpo- rates but it also offers them a double benefit. Worksite well- ness and health programs would enhance the workforce morale and productivity as well as it would reduce the absenteeism, thereby reducing the health insurance costs of the company. Many well-known corporate houses have writ- ten policies which safe guard the health of the employees. But this is fragmented and found in selected companies. 5. Role of public health professionals Public health has traditionally been linked with the welfare of rural populace, persons residing in the urban slum and for those workers involved in the unorganized sector. Though public health cannot deny the services to the underprivileged and they should get the priority, with improved health of this section of the people, the public health policy should also be focussed towards the persons working in different corporate houses of our country. Public health professionals can and should actively involve in improving the health of persons working in corporate sector. This can range from increasing awareness about common illness through different modes of mass media to devising health policies specific for them. 6. Conclusion To summarize, there is a need for strong public health- business partnership at national and state level to deal with health issues of the employees. Corporate sector should involve itself in a big way in the national health program and treat it as a matter of economic necessity and the expenditure on it as productive investment. The roots of social re- sponsibility lie in the moral obligation of the corporate entity; to give something back to the society in which it functions, however none of the above is possible unless the corporates ensure that their own workforce, the manpower which earns and works for them is healthy. The corporate houses should learn the new jargon “Prevention rather than intervention”. Conflicts of interest All authors have none to declare. r e f e r e n c e s 1. Forbes Global 2000 (Ger-Ind). Available from: URL: http:// 2000_Counrty_ 6.html, Accessed on 18.5.2012. 2. Meeting Changing Expectations. Corporate Social Responsibility. World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Available from: URL: DocRoot/hbdf19Txhmk3kDxBQDWW/CSRmeeting.pdf, Accessed on 19.5.2012. 3. LABORSTA. Geneva: International Labour Organization. Available at: Accessed on 19.5.2012. 4. The World Health report 2002 Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life. Geneva. Available at: 2002/en/whr02_en.pdf, Accessed on 19.5.2012. 5. Rantanen J and Fedotov I. A Occupational Health Services standards, principles and approaches in occupational health services. In: Ilo Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, JM Stellman ed. vol. 1:16.1e16.62. 6. Ottawa charter for health promotion. In: First International Conference on Health Promotion, Ottawa. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1986. 7. Jakarta declaration on leading health promotion into the 21st century. In: Fourth International Conference on Health Promotion: New Players for a New Era e Leading Health Promotion into the 21st Century, Jakarta. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1997. 8. Bangkok charter for health promotion in a globalized world. In: Sixth Global Conference on Health Promotion, Thailand. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2005. 9. World Health Organization: Occupational Health. Available from: URL:, Accessed on 19.5.2012. 10. Worker’s health is a corporate social responsibility. Available from: URL: Update_Vol3_No5.pdf. Accessed on 20.5.2012. a p o l l o m e d i c i n e 1 0 ( 2 0 1 3 ) 1 8 1 e1 8 4 183
  5. 5. 11. Preventing Chronic Diseases: A Vital Investment. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2005. 12. Disease and Injury Country Estimates: Burden of Disease. Geneva: World Health Organization. Available from: http://www.who. int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/estimates_country/en/ index.html. Accessed on 20.5.2012. 13. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Development Programme, Asian Development Bank. A Future within Reach 2008: Regional Partnerships for the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific. Bangkok: United Nations; 2008. a p o l l o m e d i c i n e 1 0 ( 2 0 1 3 ) 1 8 1 e1 8 4184
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