Multinationals Take Note of Health and Wellness on a Global Basis

by: Nichole Gunn July 5, 2011

The ever-rising healthcare costs and the fact that employee health is becoming a growing concern among business owners, multinational businesses are taking steps to bring corporate health and wellness initiatives to the top of their cost reduction strategy efforts. According to recent research conducted by Towers Watson (a worldwide professional services firm) this shift in prioritization will occur over the next few years.

According to the survey, approximately 33 percent of the 149 multinational business respondents presently have employee health initiatives in place. Forty-seven percent have plans for implementation of wellness programs that will come to fruition within two years. And, 87 percent cited employee health and wellness will be taken to a higher level in regard to prioritization within the next four years.

Other results from the survey reveal that of the respondents’ top three health objectives, 54 percent feel the need to display interest in the wellbeing of their workforce, including focusing on stress management. Less than 52 percent cited increasing healthcare expenses as a concern – of the U.S. business respondents, 59 percent were concerned.

A senior international consultant for Towers Watson Francis Coleman explained that businesses located in different parts of the world each have their own set of concerns:

  • U.S. based corporations find healthcare costs and its reduction a primary focus
  • Europe based businesses find absenteeism, disabilities, and lost productivity of special concern
  • Asia based businesses find health programs are an effective means of harnessing and retaining skilled workers

"Given the variety of health systems … the need for a global workforce health strategy has never been greater. Multinationals with a clear strategy can better coordinate local health activities to improve their overall workforce health and increase the efficiency of their total spending on health care," noted Coleman.

Of the multinational corporations, 75 percent presently provide some type of wellness program that may include health training, medical screenings, or preventive care. Interestingly, Asia-based businesses saw a 62 percent drop in this area. It is believed this drop is due to ongoing preventive care that is sweeping the area.

While clarity and transparency are desired qualities of a business, just 13 percent of multinational corporations cited that they provide wellness program information and explanations in regard to their global workforce.

Stressing the need for employee health initiatives, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health conducted a recent study that revealed a noteworthy increase of obesity and related health problems among employees who travel on a frequent basis for their companies, as reported by the International Business Times. Based on this information, multinational corporations will certainly be taking strides to tackle this problem through strategies for traveling and diet, as well as educational health and diet programs.