Toward a Corporate Culture of Health: Results of a National Survey

Original Scholarship

Policy Points:

  • The private sector has large potential influence over social determinants of health, but we have limited information about how businesses perceive or engage in actions to promote health and well-being.
  • We conducted a national survey of more than 1,000 businesses of varying sizes and industries to benchmark private sector engagement in employee, environmental, consumer, and community health, which we collectively refer to as a corporate culture of health.
  • Overall, the private sector is taking steps to foster health and well-being but still has substantial opportunity for growth.

Context: The private sector has a large potential role in advancing health and well-being, but attention to corporate practices around health tends to focus on a narrow range of issues and on large businesses. Systematically describing private sector engagement in health and well-being is a necessary step toward understanding the current state of the field and developing an agenda for businesses going forward.

Methods: We conducted a national survey of 1,017 private sector organizations to assess current levels of engagement in what we term a culture of health (CoH). We measured corporate CoH along four dimensions, which assess the extent to which businesses promote employee, environmental, consumer, and community health and well-being.We also explored potential explanations for the number of health-related actions taken in each dimension.

Findings: On average, businesses took 38% of health-related actions included in our survey. For each dimension, we found variation among businesses in the number of actions taken (on average, there were almost fourfold differences between the bottom and top quartiles of businesses in terms of actions taken). Mentioning health and well-being in the corporate mission, having a strategic plan for CoH, and perceiving a positive return on CoH investments were all associated with businesses’ actions taken. Fewer than half of businesses, however, perceived a positive return on their CoH investments.

Conclusions: Overall, the private sector is taking steps to foster health and well-being. However, there remains substantial variation among businesses and opportunity for growth, even among those currently taking the most action. Strengthening the business case for a corporate CoH may increase private sector investments in health and well-being. Actions taken by individual businesses, business groups, industries, and regulators have the potential to improve corporate engagement and impact.

Keywords: corporate health, social determinants of health, health policy, public health.

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Published in 2019
DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12418