The ties that bind brokerages to their local community offer the prospect of dual payoffs for individual practices and the areas they serve. Two such examples include health and wellness initiatives, as well as charitable giving.
At the ripe young age of 29, Andrew McNeil has already established himself as a business leader in San Francisco’s North Bay. His contribution: the Arrow Community Wellness Series, named for the Arrow Benefits Group family agency he joined more than a decade ago.
It helped earn him the Petaluma Health Care District’s HeartSafe Community (HSC) Golden Heart Award. Heart is the operative word. HSC seeks to strengthen the local community’s response to cardiac emergencies through CPR, as well as automated external defibrillator (AED) training, strategic AED installation, maintenance and registration and heart health education.
“Sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of 350,000 a year, and just in our community alone, they’re starting to teach hands-only CPR in our junior high schools,” he reports. Last year, two local seventh graders saved their parents during cardiac episodes.
Wellness programs in the North Bay, which McNeil says is located in one of California’s healthiest counties, are offered at St. Joseph Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and Whole Foods. Apart from educating locals about cardiac arrest, courses also focus on nutrition, as well as hearing loss and hearing restoration, just to name a few.
“If you give three hours to an employee to go get CPR certified or attend this course on healthy eating, the employee is going to see a lot of value in that,” he explains. “That was the original intent. And although that’s still true, we found that the community mainly were the ones getting behind this, because they, too, want to learn about healthy eating from a Whole Foods representative, how to do CPR and deploy an AED.”
Duplicating a regional health and wellness initiative across the U.S. makes sense on multiple levels, especially in this climate, according to one seasoned health and wellness industry expert. “Wellness provides benefits firms with a way to expand their services, differentiate themselves from their competitors and generate additional sources of revenue,” notes Don Powell, Ph.D., president and CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine.
He says many of the service providers his firm partners with position themselves as a one-stop-shop for all of their clients’ health and welfare needs. As a result, “it has increased their desire to serve as wellness consultants, and in some cases, even wellness providers,” Powell adds.
QuoteThe private sector bears the burden of direct and indirect health costs, including health plan premiums, workers’ comp, disability, etc.
The key to implementing meaningful community outreach and achieving results, no doubt, will be fueled by the nature or power of those local partnerships. “Multi-stakeholder collaborations are very successful in community initiatives,” explains Karen Moseley, VP of education for the Health Enhancement Research Organization known as HERO and project manager for the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Communities (HWHC) initiative.
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The lion’s share of HWHC participants are employers (60%), followed by community, government or public entities (35%). Only about 5% are brokers or advisers, whom Moseley says can present a compelling business case to their customers. In fact, HWHC offers them data and resources that detail why it’s worth investing in the initiative, what’s working across 25 case studies featuring several blue-chip companies and how to take action. There’s also a link that allows producers to recommend a healthy business community for consideration.
“The private sector bears the burden of direct and indirect health costs, including health plan premiums, workers’ comp, disability, etc.,” she says. “And at the end of the day, for every $1 that would be invested in food and nutrition education, for example, there’s a $10 return in reduced healthcare costs. So it’s a financial decision. It also contributes to the economic prosperity of the community as a whole, which leads to being attracted to other business.”
Another avenue for brokerages to make a local difference is charitable giving. Since Russ Blakely manages the employee benefits of several nonprofits and not-for-profit companies, there are often requests to make contributions and participate in golf tournaments, banquets or Christmas events.
In fact, his eponymously named benefits brokerage earmarks nearly $100,000 annually toward community fundraisers. He’s now poised to run the local United Way capital fund campaign in Chattanooga, Tenn., which is about to kick off. Blakely expects to visit at least 50 top employers in the community with in-house campaigns for the local United Way chapter for whom he hopes to raise nearly $12 million.
“We just feel like it is our duty to give back to them so that they continue to survive,” he says. “Everyone’s looking to cut what they give them, so we probably believe stronger than ever that giving back to these organizations in our community is a calling.”
Shutan is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.
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