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Health & Business & Economic Development

Warren Buffet - Healthy Future ArizonaWarren Buffett could not have stated it more vividly, at the famed Berkshire-Hathaway annual meeting in May 2017: 

“Medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness.”    


He continued:  “If you talk about world competitiveness of American industry, health care is the single biggest variable where we keep getting more and more out of whack with the rest of the world.”

Not good!  Then he started adding up the numbers:

“If you go back to 1960, or thereabouts, corporate taxes were about 4% of GDP, now they’re about 2% of GDP.”  By contrast, in 1960, “healthcare was 5% of GDP, and now it’s about 17% of GDP.”

So, we did something that Warren would approve of:  we kept running the numbers. 

And we found that, for the average American business, reducing health care costs by 25% would improve profits 3x more than reducing corporate taxes by 25%!  And improved productivity from a healthier workforce boosts profits even further.

The economic development implications of bad health are grim:   

When one adds it up statewide, as was done by the Milken Institute in a comprehensive study published in 2007, Arizona’s GDP was $17 billion dollars smaller than it would have been–if our population were healthy.  And obesity, diabetes and related conditions have gotten MUCH worse since that study.  We are probably talking a $20-30 billion annual hit now—and much worse by 2050, when approximately 1 out of 3 adults will have diabetes.

Healthy Future Arizona - GDP health cost

Organizations like Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce with its Wellness A to Z campaign, together with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ), Cigna, Delta Dental, and a fast-growing number of other employers, are working hard on employee health promotion.  BCBSAZ even has the Walk On! Challenge for 4th & 5th grade students.

But imagine how much healthier employees would be, if we had rigorous physical education and physical activity, and comprehensive effective nutrition & health education, throughout grades K-12, resulting in much healthier behavior during school years?  That’s what the Healthy Future Arizona plan and the Empower Youth Health Program provide.

Then students would enter the workforce with much healthier habits.  They would tune in to employers’ health promotion messages, and stay on a much healthier track as adults. 

And employers and employees would save A LOT of money.  Employers would improve their productivity and profits, while being able to pay higher salaries—instead of simply funding higher employee health costs.

Let’s expand our win-win partnerships in both workplaces and schools!

(Please see our latest slide deck for more details, as well as this list of research evidence references.)

Seas Graphic

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