Industry the July/August 2020 issue

Health and Wellness as Disaster Prep

Our conversation with national security expert Dan O’Connor continues.
By Maureen Brody Posted on July 15, 2020

Read our full feature Q&A, Disaster Deconstructed.

Q
Let’s look at the health and wellness lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. You wrote your master’s thesis on national security problems based on the decline in physical fitness. What role can private employers and public regulations play in building a more resilient population? And how do underlying health conditions affect disaster response methodologies?
A

My thesis work was that obesity was a national homeland security issue because of its observational and unintended consequences and the fact that it impacted two thirds of our entire population. … If we have 157 million to 200 million people, roughly two thirds of our country, with comorbidities of obesity, a BMI over 30, and high blood pressure, and 99% of the people who were negatively impacted by COVID-19 had those comorbidities, no one can say that our health, our wellness, our food system, and the way we prepare a nation holistically did not have a detrimental effect. … We have much better answers than we did even five years ago. But everyone has a degree of responsibility. The food pyramid, the federal government, our food manufacturers.

If you want the nation to be healthy and vibrant and to diminish some of these unintended consequences to novel sickness and novel interruption, you have to address some root causes, as opposed to the symptoms—address the problem and fix the problem.

When you take comorbidities and you superimpose them on people who are under an extended period of stress, their cognitive abilities are impacted, and their physical abilities are impacted.

Q
What about soft benefits that employers offer—healthy food discounts, gym memberships, etc. They sound like they potentially could be more effective in terms of building a healthy workforce than just medicating chronic conditions.
A

There are people who are doing soft returns on investment and cost/benefit analysis in terms of preparation versus response. I inform them that what they’ve been told most of their lives in regards to food and health and wellness is wrong. And if you can recalibrate their expectations—what will be provided by the company—and if the company sees this as an investment in long-term care that will reduce its costs in terms of insurance and healthcare, then it becomes a suitable model to invest in.

So yes, providing certain kinds of food, providing time to exercise. Mindfulness is really making quite a push in the current markets in terms of being aware of your stressors and understanding that these situations are not permanent but that they have permanent effects if you choose not to interrupt them and change them. So it’s in the best interest of a company in a lot of perspectives to do prevention now as opposed to responding to it later.

Maureen Brody News & Copy Chief Read More

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