The general public expects businesses outside the healthcare sector—such as retail, entertainment and consumer technology—to be involved in health issues in ways that go well beyond the health of their employees, according to the Edelman Health Engagement Barometer 2010. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of people say they trust a company more if is effectively engaged in health and two-thirds (65 percent) either recommend or buy products from those companies.
However, 51 percent said business in general is doing only a fair or poor job in this arena, and only 36 percent trust business to fulfill its role in addressing health. When asked to consider the health of the public alongside the environment, three out of four (73 percent) said that it is as important to protect the public’s health as it is to protect the environment. More than two-thirds (69 percent) pointed to the role business could play in doing this, saying it should put as much effort into maintaining and improving personal and public health as it puts into the environment.
“Business has gone ‘green’; now it’s time to go ‘health,’” says Nancy Turett, global president, health, Edelman. “For a company to be prosperous and relevant in the future, it has to factor health into its business strategy, not only to fulfill its social contract with all stakeholders but to realize its full market potential.”
The 11-country, 15,000-person study found that while more than three out of four (77 percent) believe business should engage in helping employees and their families lead healthier lives, nine in 10 (92 percent) believe companies should be engaging in other ways, too. For example, nearly three out of four (71 percent) believe it is important for business to support the health of its local communities, three-fourths (75 percent) believe it is important for business to educate the public on health topics related to its products or services, and the same number believe it is important for business to create new products or services that maintain and improve personal health. Seventy percent believe business should help to address obesity.
The importance of health as both a business imperative and a business opportunity was powerful worldwide, but particularly strong in the emerging markets of Brazil, China, India, and Mexico.
“In the wake of the global economic crisis, trust and transparency are now as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services provided,” says Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman. “Factoring the fundamentals of health into business strategies is key to rebuilding confidence.”
The study also explored the public’s expectations of how 10 industries should engage in health. The industries ranged from those traditionally associated with health—such as biopharma and medical products, OTC health and personal care products, and healthcare providers—to consumer technology, banking and finance, food and beverage, retail, and media and entertainment.
Results indicated that every industry should engage in health, but priorities varied.
For food and beverage companies, priorities included communicating the health risks of its products or services (51 percent); educating the public on health topics related to its products or services (50 percent); helping to address obesity (49 percent); helping employees and their families lead healthier lives (48 percent); and creating new products or services that maintain or improve health (47 percent).
For media and entertainment companies, priorities ranged from educating the public on health topics related to its products and services (49 percent); helping employees and their families lead healthier lives (44 percent); and supporting the health of local communities (43 percent).
And for biopharma and medical products companies, the key priority involved creating new products or services that maintain or improve health (59 percent). However, a full 50 percent said it has a broader responsibility to contribute to global health. Nearly the same number (48 percent) said it should support the health of local communities.
The study found that people view health not only as a personal issue but a public one. The vast majority reported being engaged in their own health (91 percent) and that of their family (89 percent), but many also reported being engaged in the health of their communities (55 percent), nations (56 percent), and the world (49 percent).
Engagement in health as a public issue was particularly high among younger adults. The two youngest age groups—18-24-year-olds and 25-34-year-olds—were more likely than older groups to engage in global health (55 percent).
“When it comes to health, we need to get past thinking of individuals only as patients and engage them as consumers, voters, employees, investors, caregivers, and citizens,” says Turett. “This convergence of personal and public health is relevant for governments, employers, public health officials, healthcare providers, and others who seek to persuade people to improve their health and motivate others to do the same.”