Over the past 100 years, the leading causes of death have shifted from infectious to chronic diseases, with heart disease and cancer at the top of the chart. These often preventable chronic conditions increase enterprise expenses and present challenges to resilience, job performance and the sustainability of skills. 

Chronic health conditions reduce productivity, increase absenteeism and presenteeism, and cost an estimated US $2.1 billion annually in direct and indirect healthcare costs alone. While chronic conditions continue to drive up the cost of healthcare, studies have shown that reducing health risks and improving overall wellbeing decreases healthcare and enterprise costs. It also contributes to increased resilience and decreased mortality, morbidity, and suffering. 

A study by McKinsey conducted in 2022 showed that in Asia, including Vietnam, burnout rates are higher than the global average. While one in four employees worldwide are experiencing symptoms of burnout, the figure for Asia is nearing one in three. These employees typically also report symptoms of depression and anxiety. The impact of these conditions are often exacerbated by cultural factors, which may hinder comprehensive reporting on mental health, as well as the willingness to seek assistance. In a 2020 survey in Singapore conducted by McKinsey, nearly 90% of employees indicated that they would not seek help for a mental-health condition due to stigma. In this regard, Vietnam shares very similar challenges to its Asian neighbors. 

As leaders, we must do more to address this stigma. Education and awareness of the facts around mental health are a good place to start. It is critical to create openness in the culture and environment of the workplace, ensuring that effective support mechanisms and tools are easily accessible. It is now a necessity for organizations to address workplace wellbeing to foster engagement, reduce burnout, and ensure an overall more productive workforce. 

In addition to increasing the health of their employees, organizations with proactive health promotion and wellbeing strategies often see financial benefit. There is ample research suggesting that organizations that implement wellbeing programs can realize reductions in total healthcare expenditures. Additionally, specific, and targeted preventive health programs improved health outcomes while also having a positive effect on organizational return on investment. 

In conclusion, current studies suggest the need for a paradigm shift from a reactionary healthcare system to a value-based proactive system of health. Disruptive innovation as a means of promoting an integrated, synchronized, and holistic approach to prevention may be necessary to adequately address and improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of employees through risk reduction. Implementing evidence-based lifestyle medicine aimed at reducing health risks and preventing diseases is fundamental for enhancing overall health, well-being, and quality of life. Concurrently, it lowers healthcare expenses, enhancing job performance and satisfaction, thus aiding companies in talent retention.  

Realizing that reducing individual health risks is fundamental to improving health outcomes and preventing some chronic diseases, many organizations have considered shifting from a reactive to proactive healthcare system for both physical and mental health.  

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Tim Burrill
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