Why Public Health Makes Business Sense

In the increasing competition between cities, regions, and states for the highly desirable jobs and industries driving economic growth in these difficult times, community health has become a key ingredient in attracting employers.
December 12, 2012, 7am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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We've recently heard about the dubious tax incentive arms race being undertaken to lure companies to locales throughout America. In the race to hand out more and more money, locales are missing out on an emerging ingredient in their "credit score": their community health index. "More and more companies, in their efforts to contain employee health-care costs, are making a community's obesity rate the most important factor in their business-location decisions, Dr. James Johnson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told attendees at a Center for Digital Government gathering last month."

Dr. Mark Funkhouser, a former Kansas City mayor and auditor, and director of the Governing Institute, says that "a community's health index is like an individual's credit score. It tells those considering doing business with you how big a risk you are." And just as there are ways for individuals to view their credit scores, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's County Health Rankings and Roadmaps presents health rankings for every county in America.

"The realization that there are also economic-development consequences for policies that make communities healthier ought to make allies of two powerful constituencies--the health and wellness advocates and the economic-development lobby--and give public officials a stronger hand in getting those policies in place," argues Funkhouser. "In the end, cities and states that improve their health rankings will win more than just a moral victory for a better quality of life for their citizens; they'll get a leg up in the global competition for jobs."

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Published on Monday, December 10, 2012 in Governing
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