Embracing Wellness: CEO to CEO

By Rita Pyrillis

Nov. 28, 2014

Corporate wellness programs are getting a big boost from leaders of major corporations like Verizon Communications Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co. who joined forces recently to urge peers to find ways to manage health care costs and improve health outcomes.

Nine CEOs launched the CEO Council on Health and Innovation in September to share their health and wellness know-how with other corporate leaders interested in adopting programs to improve health care for workers and their communities, said Janet Marchibroda, executive director of health innovation at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. The nonprofit think tank, which is sponsoring the initiative, was co-founded in 2007 by a group of legislators including former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, who is co-advising the council.

“The goal of the council is to share their strategies for improving health and wellness but also to issue a call to action to other employers to join them in their commitment to improve the health and wellness of individuals, communities and of the health care system at large,” Marchibrodasaid. “We’re spreading the word CEO to CEO and reaching out to HR directors, business groups and others.”

Council members also include CEOs from Aetna Inc., Bank of America Corp.,Walgreen Co., McKinsey & Co., Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and the Institute for Advanced Health. Marchibroda said the organizations combined provide health care benefits to 150 million people.

“American business has always been an innovator,” she said. “The thinking behind this was that some innovative strategies in improving health care can be models for others. “

The council issued a report highlighting efforts at their own companies and calling on employers to speed up their adoption of wellness programs to promote exercise and good nutrition, to help employees quit smoking and to manage chronic diseases. It also suggests steps to replicate such efforts at their own companies.

“Employers bear 45 percent of cost of our nation’s health care,” Marichboda said. “We focus on Medicare, but that is a pretty big chunk. CEOs believe the health of nation is vital to remaining competitive.”

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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