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Arogya World launches Healthy Workplace program

Posted on Nov 07, 03:05PM | IBNS

Arogya World, a US-based non-profit organization with a domestic presence in Bangalore, on Wednesday unveiled new Healthy Workplace Criteria as the first step of its Healthy Workplace program.

Jointly developed by Arogya World and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), after intense deliberations and prior multi-stakeholder consultations with the IT sector, allied organizations and medical experts at a Bangalore workshop organized by Arogya World in February 2012 - these criteria will promote workplace wellness, help reduce the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), and offer companies a competitive edge via increased talent retention and higher productivity.

The Healthy Workplace Criteria were launched on Wednesday to mark two important milestones this month: the World Economic Forum Summit on India (6-8 November), which has NCDs on its agenda, and World Diabetes Day (14 November).

Workplaces offer an incredible platform for NCD prevention and are a key focus area in India for Arogya World.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Geeta Bharadwaj - Head, Healthy Workplace Initiative, Arogya World, India, said: "As chronic disease and stress levels soar and attrition rates rise, it's imperative that companies shift from illness containment to wellness promotion.

"Such a paradigm shift would boost positive work outcomes, improve organizational excellence and promote employee retention."

Speaking at the launch event, Keshav Desiraju - Special Secretary, Health, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, affirmed: "India is committed to reducing the burden of NCDs, which cause 50pc of all deaths in our country. As people spend half their waking hours at work, it is important to increase health consciousness at the workplace.

"I am pleased that workplaces are being used in innovative 'whole of society' approaches to combat NCDs."

Conveying his support for the Healthy Workplace initiative, Prof. K Srinath Reddy - President, Public Health Foundation of India, said: "India is hard hit by NCDs, with around 20pc people harbouring at least one chronic disease and 10pc having more than one. Against this backdrop, workplace wellness efforts like this one, if scaled up, could play a crucial role in effecting a positive public health outcome."

Workplace wellness programs not only help attract and retain talent, but ensure good returns on investment (ROI), particularly important in the wake of the global economic slowdown.

A strong business case exists for using workplaces in the battle against NCDs, considered one of the greatest health and development challenges of the century. Indeed, a recent analysis led by Harvard showed an average ROI of USD 3.27 for each dollar spent on wellness projects.

As ageing and NCDs - mainly diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer and chronic diseases - increasingly afflict workforces, preserving employee health and promoting productivity increases is imperative.

In India, NCDs increasingly cause higher death and disease rates, and a WHO report says CVDs would be the major cause of death and disability in the country by 2020.

Diabetes is another dangerous disease affecting people all across the nation, with 61.3 million presently afflicted.

If untreated, diabetes can lead to CVDs, blindness, amputations and kidney failure. Yet another deadly disease across urban and rural India is hypertension - the most prevalent chronic disease, with around 33pc Indians afflicted with hypertension.

"NCDs are one of the greatest health and development challenges of the century. While it is expected that NCDs will be responsible for an accumulative global output loss of USUSD 47 trillion in the next 30 years, there is a strong business case for the effectiveness of workplace programmes, including a return on investment of USD 3-4 for every USD 1 spent," said Dr Eva Jane-Llopis, Head - Health Programmes from The World Economic Forum.

In this scenario, workplace wellness initiatives could play a crucial preventive role by boosting awareness about risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, tobacco use and excessive alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and obesity.

To promote this important preventive platform, Arogya World's Healthy Workplace Criteria will institutionalize awards at three levels: Bronze, Silver, and Gold Level - check attachment.

To qualify, companies must meet 80pc of the criteria for the specific level that include: Ban on Tobacco Use, Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Work Life Balance, amongst others.

Significantly, the WHO emphasizes that approximately 80pc of heart disease and diabetes and 40pc of cancers can be prevented through healthy lifestyles such as avoiding tobacco use, eating healthy foods and increasing daily physical activity.