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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 02:16
Dictating fall

Statistics released towards the end of last year by JSE-listed human capital management group, Adcorp, reveal that South Africa’s labour productivity hit a 50-year low in 2014. This worrying trend comes against the backdrop of a lacklustre gross domestic product (GDP) growth of only 1.4% in the third quarter of last year, the slowest growth by far, when compared to the country’s Brics counterparts, including Brazil, Russia, India and China.

According to Dr Jacqui Joubert, managing director, Human Capital Risk Management for Zurreal4employers, an integrated and holistic human capital and risk management solution, “Economic growth in South Africa has been sluggish for the past several years. With a country grappling to deal with a plethora of domestic problems ranging from rolling power outages to incessant strikes across all sectors, and ever-increasing economic instability with key trading partners, it is not surprising that productivity levels are at an all-time low with the economy expanding less than expected.” 
In addition, the country has also had to deal with the burden of disease comprising of communicable, non-communicable, perinatal and maternal, and injury-related disorders. In fact, research undertaken by the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ), found that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes have caused major damage to development and economic growth in South Africa. The accumulated losses to South Africa’s GDP between 2006 and 2015 from diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease alone are estimated to cost the country US$1.88 billion.
“The impact of NCDs in the workplace is devastating. Because many of these diseases affect the working-age population, employers face the additional burden of high rates of absenteeism, staff turnover and low levels of productivity,” adds Joubert. More proactive and prevention-based initiatives are desperately needed to stem the escalating tide of non-communicable diseases.
According to Dr Jacques Snyman, clinical advisor for Resolution Health Medical Scheme, “The key risk factors for NCDs are primarily, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and eating an unhealthy diet. The workplace is the ideal environment in which to implement a coordinated range of interventions to encourage individuals to make specific lifestyle modifications to address these contributing factors.” This, Snyman says, should include integrated healthcare and wellbeing programmes that place a strong emphasis on preventative care, both through medical scheme benefits and wellness interventions.
“Unfortunately, employee wellness programmes have long been viewed as a ‘nice to have’, rather than a strategic imperative, but the time has come to implement lasting and effective change to give our ailing workforce and our economy a much-needed reprieve,” says Joubert. A key element of a successful employee wellness programme includes an integrated and holistic approach that involves buy-in from all stakeholders. It needs to take each employer’s unique needs into careful consideration while creating a solution that will address the health, financial and overall wellbeing of the entire staff.
This is done by establishing clear goals and objectives that are aligned with business imperatives, maintaining effective communication, creating a supportive environment, adapting the programme to socio-economic norms and creating incentives to make sure employees adhere to the programme. “Combining an employee wellness programme with an integrated managed care approach would be highly beneficial in this regard. For example, Agility’s integrated Employee/Employer Driven Care (EDCLife™) programme for employee wellness is a risk-rating programme within the employer space that allows employers to benefit from a holistic prevention and curative programme for their employees,” says Joubert.
“The productivity and success of a company is directly impacted by the health of its employees. We are on the cusp of a new year and the time is nigh to make 2015 the year that we come together to implement more preventative health measures to safeguard the health of our country and the economy.”

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:28.3 1st March, 2015
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