Why the Health Minister’s announcement is a wake-up call for UK employers

John Dean, Commercial Director, Punter Southall Health and Protection explains why UK employers need to take a closer look at the role they can play in employee health – and where they should be focusing their benefits strategy

Yesterday, Health Minister Matt Hancock addressed the annual meeting of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes and highlighted the need for more focus on prevention of illness rather than its treatment.

The Minister highlighted that 10 times more money is spent in the UK on treating disease rather than preventing it, which “doesn’t stack up”.  As Chief Commercial Director for Punter Southall Health and Protection, I’d say the same is true for employee benefits spending.

This is the first time we have seen the government talk about health prevention rather than treatment. It is a watershed moment that also sends a massive wake up call to UK employers to take action.  Employers need to shift the focus of their employee benefits spending – away from treatments for the ill such as medical insurance, critical illness and even life insurance and focus on healthcare solutions that benefit the majority.

While the Minister has suggested companies introduce positive initiatives such as bicycle loans, free fruit and counselling services to promote health, they can go so much further by embracing technology solutions, such as health screening.

Technology exists today that enables companies to screen people’s DNA, their blood and their physical and mental health. Such screenings can be a one-off investment for companies that would give employees valuable personal health information that will help them make informed choices about their future health.

Employers would also gain a high-level overview of their workforce health which can enable them to make informed investments in wellbeing.

There is a massive opportunity for companies to focus their money and energy on predictive solutions that can help them better understand the health of their people and inform wellbeing and health solutions.  It also makes complete business sense to invest in the health of the majority.

Prevention is definitely better than cure.