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Social factors must be addressed to protect community health

Organisations have a duty to safeguard community health by keeping employees, customers and suppliers from physical and mental harm. Every year, more than 374 million people suffer work-related injuries and accidents, causing a 4% hit to global gross domestic product (GDP), according to a 2019 report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The US National Safety Council stated in 2019 that a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds and that companies lost 70 million production days due to work-related injuries in 2018. In addition, there were a further 33 million production days lost in 2018 due to permanently disabling injuries sustained in previous years.

Social sustainability factors should be a key consideration among healthcare payers and providers to ensure adequate community health protections and minimise healthcare provision costs where possible. These rising costs are placing an increasing burden on both payers and healthcare providers. If they are to continue providing quality care, healthcare payers and providers must migrate toward additional care delivery paradigms, such as value-based payments and population health management.

Healthcare providers and payers must also ensure that care is accessible to as many people as possible. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed flaws in healthcare systems around the world. For instance, workers and patients were left without personal protective equipment (PPE), increasing the risk of catching and spreading the virus. Providers have the capability to support community health through telemedicine and full PPE-protected in-person engagements and increased capacity to contact trace the spread of infectious agents. This will allow providers to control the health of local populations and ensure the number of patients falling critically ill and requiring expensive interventions remains low.

There are various ways companies can improve the health and safety measures for employees, customers and suppliers. For example, companies can hire and empower health and safety officers to promote policies that create a safe workplace environment. This would ensure the physical, mental and social wellbeing of employees. In addition, companies with a reactive customer complaints process can mitigate customer health and safety issues before they get out of hand by having a system to record, acknowledge, escalate and resolve complaints quickly.

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