Development Issue Spotlight on Health

6/8/16 | | Comments (0)


This is the sixth of a 12-part 2016 series on our blog highlighting the 12 major development issues.  In case you missed it, last month we discussed access to credit, which can be found here.  This month we are focusing on health.

In health care spending, America is still number one.  According to a survey by the Wall Street Journal, the United States spends 51% more than the world’s second-biggest health-care spender, Norway, and 141% more than the average Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country. Yet this does not translate to better health or a longer life expectancy for Americans. Here are a few of primary health factors that cause Americans to be so unhealthy:

  • Lack of physical activity – The benefits of exercise extend far beyond weight management. Research shows that regular physical activity can help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, back pain and osteoporosis.  Regular exercise also raises self-esteem and help manage stress.  So what can credit unions do?  So much! Encourage your staff to stay healthy and fit by subsidizing gym memberships, participating in local walk-a-thons or celebrating group weight loss and increase in overall fitness.  The Foundation held a Twitter Chat last year discussing employee wellness, and wellness in the workplace.  Click here to see the conversation on how credit unions can include financial wellness as part of internal programs.
  • Lack of access to health care services – Disparities in access to health services affect individuals, societies and credit unions. Limited access to health care impacts people’s ability to reach their full potential, and negatively affects their quality of life.  The biggest barrier to health care is the high cost of medical care and lack of insurance.  Did you know that the number one cause of bankruptcy today is medical expenses (and many of these have insurance).  It pays for credit unions to promote health and provide information to members on free or reduced fee health care options. Many credits are offering services to help combat medical debt, and understand how detrimental it can be for families who have to deal with it.  The Foundation also has a free Medical Debt Toolkit available to credit unions to assist their members.  To learn more about how credit unions can address the needs contact local non-profits and the health department in your state or community.
  • Americans have healthy appetites – According to the CDC, 40% of Americans or 78.6 million Americans are obese.  Approximately $147 billion is spent in added medical expenses each year to treat this factor.  Obesity is a chronic disease and is the result of a slew of factors like genes, metabolism, behavior, culture, environment and socioeconomic status.  But why is obesity a new issue in 21st century America? In the past few decades, the culture and environment in the United States has changed and so have the weights of the vast majority of Americans. People are working full-time jobs that force them to sit in front of a computer all day. So in a society where food is abundant but physical activity is hardly encouraged, obesity can really blossom.  Credit unions must make a commitment to the health of their team and to members.   Provide only healthy choices at staff meetings and events.  Trade out the soda, snack and candy machines in favor of tasty but healthy snacks. Reward healthy employees who take less sick time with extra vacation days.  It makes good business sense and your employees will love it.

These are three of the major factors that are affecting the health of American’s as well as the health of your staff and members.  Making small changes at your organization can have a lasting impact. Be sure to let us know in the comments if your credit union organization has made improvements in this area.

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