Health Equity Programs for Employees and Communities: A Playbook

A Community Health Story September 20, 2022

Saying your community embraces equity is one thing, but what is equity strategy in action? In Northeast Indianapolis, working with local businesses to build a manufacturing facility that provides jobs and educational opportunities is just the start. Equity becomes a part of the picture when that company works with the community to build a grocery store next door, when there hasn’t been one in miles. 

At the intersection of 38th Street and Sheridan Avenue in Indianapolis is Cook Medical’s new $15 million Goodwill Commercial Services medical device manufacturing facility. The building opened in May 2022 and will bring 100 skilled jobs to people in the surrounding neighborhood. Next door, Cook Medical is building Indy Fresh Market, a 14,000-square-foot full-service grocery store that will be operated and eventually owned by two local residents. The Northeast Indianapolis community has lacked easy access to nutritious food — a major social driver of health.

This kind of partnership is just one example of how businesses can partner with community-based organizations on health equity programs, aiming to make a measurable difference when it comes to factors that cause health disparities. For small and mid-sized companies with more limited resources, there are still many meaningful ways to support the health of employees — and improve community health. That’s where Business Equity for Indy’s new Impediments to Health Playbook comes in: The playbook offers ideas that companies located anywhere can use — they aren’t limited to Indianapolis.
 

Helping Employers Advance Health Equity

The Impediments to Health Playbook includes ideas from companies around the world to support equitable outcomes, improve employee health, and benefit business operations. It focuses specifically on four action areas: vaccinations, mental health, maternal and infant health, and healthy food. BEI is also creating a Workforce Pilot for 30 area companies in which it will provide two-year implementation training alongside equity experts.

“We know, particularly in the healthcare world, but in all realms of business, that for businesses to continue to grow and innovate, they must be able to attract and retain diverse employees,” said Kyle Weber, chief strategy officer for Elevance Health. “The pandemic taught us and me, personally, that employee health is a critical component of being an equitable employer and supporting the success of a diverse workforce, particularly employees who face disproportionate challenges because of race.”

The BEI playbook offers “good,” “very good,” and “great” strategies to promote health equity. For employers looking for a place to start, here are some of the health equity programs suggested by the playbook in the four areas:


Vaccinations:

  • Good: Promote educational campaigns on the importance of getting vaccinated.
  • Good: Link employees to community-based resources and services that provide free or low-cost vaccinations.
  • Very good: Partner with health organizations to provide one or more onsite vaccination clinics.
  • Very good: Provide incentives (e.g., cash, paid time off to get vaccinated or to deal with side effects) to employees to get vaccinated).
  • Great: Mandate vaccinations or strongly incentivize vaccine uptake using cash incentives or health insurance premium penalties.
  • Great: Give employees paid time off to get vaccinated.


Mental Health:

  • Good: Educate and inform employees about mental health, stigma, and self-care strategies and techniques.
  • Good: Link employees to community resources that assist with mental health conditions.
  • Very good: Encourage employees to seek early treatment for mental health conditions.
  • Very good: Offer resiliency training to reduce employee burnout, training to increase empathy and compassion, and/or lunchtime learning sessions regarding mental health and available services (at the organization and in the community).
  • Great: Assure associates that mental health care services are covered with parity to medical/physical services including generosity of benefits, equivalent out-of-pocket costs, effect on deductibles, etc.
  • Great: Provide workout facilities/showers to help employees stay active and reduce stress.


Maternal and Infant Health:

  • Good: Educate employees about the importance of prenatal care, prenatal vitamins, and other infant and maternal health issues.
  • Good: Link employees to community resources and information, including what to anticipate during and after pregnancy, to assure a successful transition back to work.
  • Very good: Offer on-demand hotline support for pregnant employees and covered dependents to address an array of pregnancy- and post-partum topics.
  • Very good: Dedicate a private lactation room for expressing breastmilk and refrigeration for expressed milk.
  • Great: Create a comprehensive prenatal program with incentives for initiating and maintaining prenatal and post-partum care.
  • Great: Provide on-site childcare or assistance finding childcare.


Healthy Food:

  • Good: Support and promote local community-based interventions aimed at improving nutritious food consumption.
  • Good: Refer employees to local nutritional programs and services including Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Very good: Partner with a farm-to-worksite program that delivers fresh produce to paying employees and pair it with healthy eating education and recipes.
  • Very good: Use a nutritional consultant to overhaul cafeteria offerings.
  • Great: Present cooking demonstrations with interactive learning about healthy eating.
  • Great:  Offer nutritional and weight-control counseling, especially for those with chronic disease.

Elevance Health is a founding partner of Business Equity for Indy. To learn more about the work of BEI or to discover additional health equity programs that could benefit your company, visit businessequityindy.com.

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