I was struck by the story of Robert Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, standing in front of 1,000 other CEOs and saying, “You are the cause of the healthcare crisis.”
Jeffrey Pfeffer: It’s true. He takes three points and puts them together. The first point, which is consistent with data reported by the World Economic Forum and other sources, is that an enormous percentage of the health care cost burden in the developed world, and in particular in the U.S., comes from chronic disease–things like diabetes and cardiovascular and circulatory disease. You begin with that premise: A large fraction–some estimates are 75 percent–of the disease burden in the U.S. is from chronic diseases.
Second, there is a tremendous amount of epidemiological literature that suggests that diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome—and many health-relevant individual behaviors such as overeating and underexercising and drug and alcohol abuse–come from stress.
And third, there is a large amount of data that suggests the biggest source of stress is the workplace. So that’s how Chapman can stand up and make the statement that CEOs are the cause of the health care crisis: You are the source of stress, stress causes chronic disease, and chronic disease is the biggest component of our ongoing and enormous health care costs.
All of the individual elements of this make sense, though I wonder how it looks when you start putting them together. Do people who work on their feet have fewer health problems than those that sit at a desk? How do alcohol and drug abuse compare between those working and not working? How about those who work longer hours vs shorter hours?
My sense is the picture is a little more complicated.
But something to think about.