February 3, 2022

Beyond the Pandemic: Community Health Will Remain Key to Business Resiliency

Stephen Massey
Managing Director, Health Action Alliance

Employers lose a trillion dollars a year to chronic illnesses that are caused or worsened by community conditions.

There is hope in the sharp decline in Omicron numbers that we will soon move beyond the pandemic phase of COVID-19 and into a “new normal.” We’re not there yet—cases and hospitalizations are still well above their pre-Omicron peak—but companies are trying to prepare for the next chapter in their resilience planning. 

Employers Are Still the Most Trusted Institution

One thing that hasn’t changed during the pandemic is the trust that workers have in their employers. According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, "my employer” remains the most trusted institution in the U.S. and worldwide. People’s belief is not simply in “business,” but in the relationship they have with their employer. What's more, workers are looking to CEOs to take action on the issues that matter most, including health, and are prepared to reward companies that invest in community improvements.

So, as the conditions around COVID-19 evolve, employers should look to maintain that trust by communicating openly and honestly with their employees and implementing policies that will strengthen the health of their employees and the communities where they live.

Community Health as a Core Business Strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare why community health is essential to business resiliency. The truth is: this was the case well before March 2020. Employers spend roughly $880 billion a year on medical claims—three-quarters of which are due to chronic conditions. On top of that, productivity losses from ill-health total $530 billion a year.

If companies are going to improve employee health and make their health care spending more sustainable, they will need to recognize the link between chronic disease and community conditions. Focusing on individual employees’ health needs can only go so far. Employers must also look outside the worksite to secure the health of their employees, surrounding community and their business.

At our town hall last week, we heard from the mayor and public health director of San Antonio, as well as the president of the Campbell Soup Foundation, who collectively made the case for community health investments as a core business strategy. 

Here are five steps to help your company begin building a community health program.

  1. Understand the current state of health in the communities where you operate and where your employees live. Are there ways to leverage the unique profile of your business to enhance community health, such as hosting community vaccine clinics at your facility; using marketing dollars, consumer products or retail space to promote local health messages; or leveraging the unique skills of your company’s team members to improve community health outcomes?  

  1. Reach out to your local public health officials, who are actively tackling systemic issues and are willing partners. Bringing together the private sector and public health can help maximize your investments, accelerate improvements in community wellness, and better reach key audiences. 

  1. Connect your company’s corporate responsibility efforts to community health needs. Collaborate with community leaders and provide industry expertise, employee volunteer hours, or philanthropic giving. And make sure you break out of your silos and engage representatives from key populations you’re trying to serve, as well as other businesses in your community that may want to collaborate and leverage your investments. Building trust across stakeholders is critical to your success.

  1. Advocate for public policies and investments that will improve community health. Reach out to your elected officials to explain why enhanced public transit, tax incentives to attract healthy food options, and re-zoning to increase affordable housing access are important to your company and your community. 

  1. Stay connected. Strengthening your relationships with public health and embracing community health as a core business strategy are important first steps. Later this spring, we’ll be releasing a Pandemic Preparedness Playbook for Business with practical advice and tips to do even more.  

HAA On-Demand

We’ve curated these short videos with practical advice to help you start building your company’s community health strategy:

Campbell Soup Foundation President Kim Fremont Fortunato on:

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg on:

San Antonio Public Health Director Claude Jacob on