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Money, Disease, and Death

In this chapter of The Health Connection, the harm and significance of poor physical health in the workplace will be studied. Reasons will be given explaining why the status quo of the problem is unacceptable and change is necessary. An abundance of statistics and facts will demonstrate the waste of human and financial proficiency because of poor physical health.

The United States experiences an immense loss of productivity in the workplace because of preventable health problems. An average of 154 American workers dies each day from work-related disease and injury. In 1993, the National Safety Council estimated approxiamently $112 billion is wasted on medical costs and lost wages (NIOSH). A lack of fitness leads to many of these problems in the area of health and occupational health. In 1996, the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity indicated that more than sixty percent of adults do not achieve the recommended amount of physical activity (Wicker). The Department of Labor Statistics calculated that over forty-three percent of occupational injuries or illnesses are caused by overexertion (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 1985, General Motors estimated health care costs accounted for $400 of the price of every car that they produced (Quick 5). These health care costs often come from early deaths of employees, a heavy blow to companies. Xerox in 1978 estimated the cost of losing an executive at age forty-one as $600,000 to $1,000,000 because of time and money wasted training an employee (Pelletier 5). Losses such as these, caused by poor physical health, contribute to a drastic decrease in productivity for an organization.

Companies that have incorporated health promotion into their workers' lives have found their investments to be very beneficial and have saved many dollars. The New York Telephone Company saved at least $2.7 million annually from a wellness program (Quick 5). A University of Leningrad study found workers in fitness programs were less prone to industrial accidents and absenteeism was reduced three to five days per person (Pelletier 37). The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 helped establish the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Its role has been to investigate potentially hazardous working conditions as requested by employers or employees. The institute has created methods for preventing disease and made recommendations for protecting workers (NIOSH). The NIOSH has headquarters in every state. Many private organizations have been created to help other businesses with health needs. One such company, Alexian Brothers Occupational Health Clinics, services almost 1,500 businesses. They claim to reduce worker's compensation claims, manage worker-injury costs, increase workers' productivity, improve safety, develop a more healthy work force, and educate employees through wellness programs (Alexian). The four reasons for the establishment of health and fitness programs given in Work Stress are to improve human relations through improving morale, engender greater commitment to the organization, improve productivity, lower health care costs, and improve the company image in the community (Quick 201).

The Surgeon General's report on physical activity and health contains many principles of health and exercise. It states people, no matter their age or sex, will benefit from regular physical activity. The Surgeon General writes that exercise will not only benefit muscles, but also will improve mental health. The Surgeon General reports increasing the intensity or duration of physical activity will increase health benefits, but even moderate doses of exercise will lead to lower mortality rates compared to those who do not exercise. Finally, the most important gain for major companies is physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality (Surgeon General). As discussed before in this paper, the death of an executive at an early age is a huge financial loss.

The principles of good health are written by several different philosophers. Benajamen Disraeli, the Earl of Baconsfield, wrote, "The health of the people is really the foundation which all their happiness and all their power as a state depend"(Bartlett 420). The statement shows the importance of health to a society. Many Americans seem to be ignoring this advice and seem unconcerned about exercise and living a healthy lifestyle. Ruyard Kipling wrote, "More men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies"(Bartlett 786). Many Americans are unfit to handle the stresses of the working environment, and their physical health is a handicap which must be eliminated to insure a better future for themselves and the productivity of their organization.

After explaining the status quo and the harm being done, The Health Connection will look through history and discuss how the problem of poor employee health was created and how the problem has evolved during America’s history.

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