Message to Business Leaders: Become Health Leaders

Business leaders.png

Many local business leaders took notice when the media reported earlier this year that Sangamon County, Illinois  ranked 80th of 102 Illinois counties in measures of community health, while ranking second in quality and access to health care facilities.    "How can that be?", people asked.  A forum was held, and an outside expert shared the details and theories about causes.  While many theories were expressed, the thoughtful answers had more to do with things we don’t normally think of as affecting “health.” Socioeconomic status and access to jobs with good income and benefits were mentioned repeatedly.  Good jobs are more important than the quality of hospitals or doctors.  A better economy drives better health. Good health is different from good medicine.

I’m proud to be a physician.  When you're sick, going to the doctor or hospital makes perfect sense.  But we in the medical community don’t hold the keys to personal or community health.  You, our business leaders, do.

The health of our community is the product of the health of our individuals.  While our community can adopt neighborhood designs that promote more exercise and healthier diet choices, individuals control almost all the small cumulative choices that influence health:  Fast food or home cooked vegetables? Walk or drive?  Elevator or stairs?  Give up smoking, alcohol or drugs?  Work for a living or seek support?

As business owners, we have tremendous responsibility.  Our responses to the marketplace get us the things we desire.  We are leaders and that includes health.  Start with your own health.  Lead by example.

A survey of college students who exercise regularly sought to discover what motivates those who work out regularly.  The number one answer:  “My parents exercise.”

Over the past two years I dropped 50 pounds by eliminating sugar from my diet and improved my fitness with intense exercise. Good examples inspire.  My patients follow the advice I give more completely, now that it comes from a visibly better example.

You have the same opportunity.   You can be a great example of healthy habits for your employees while you grow your business to support those who support you.

The community needs you to be healthy.  Take care of yourself.  Understand your risks of illness, especially vascular disease.  We all know examples where sudden heart attack or stroke tragically has taken valuable members of our community.  We all suffer from their loss.  Early reversible disease can be detected with the right screening tests.

Avoid the center aisles of the grocery store.  Exercise, eating more vegetables and eliminating processed foods with all its sugar and salt can be more expensive than fast food or processed “food products,” but the health they promote and the disease avoided can save many times over the cost.  Improved productivity due to health provides motivation to make an investment in life changing healthier habits.

Do your research.  Many health care providers are so caught up in their “busyness” of treating illness that they tend to leave health promotion to the patient or others.  While certain screening tests, like vascular screenings, are not covered by insurance, they are not expensive compared to losing life or function.

Know your risk. Take control.  Educate yourself.  But more importantly, act to improve your health.  That is real “key man” insurance.