Employers across the world recognize the value of employee health and well-being, both to their organizations and to their individual workers.

Buck Consultants surveyed over 1,000 organizations in 45 countries and found that, globally, health promotion that focuses on worker productivity is spreading.

However, employers in the United States have different priorities and perceived risks than businesses in other regions of the world.

The report on the survey, Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies, spells out the differences between the U.S. and the ROW.

The chart details the top 3 priorities among employers by region; in the U.S., it’s physical activity above all priorities. In the rest of the world, the top risk factor is stress, stress, stress. Physical activity is a challenge in second place in Asia, Australia, and Europe. Food, too, takes second place in the U.S. and Latin America — the two regions of the world where obesity is growing fastest.

The top strategic objective in the U.S. is to reduce health care and insurance costs — the only region of the world where this shows up as a first-order priority. In every other region of the world, the top business wellness priority is to improve productivity and reduce presenteeism.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Two key observations come out of this study for me:

1. There’s a disconnect between the companies’ priorities (stress, nutrition) and the top wellness program elements that Buck identified: biometric health screening, flu shots and immunizations, executive screening programs, health fairs, and gym memberships. Targeting, really targeting, stress, obesity and chronic disease requires more focused programs than these fragmented tactics.

2. The U.S. employer-sponsored health system is an anomaly in the world. While Buck says this isn’t surprising, it’s a drain on American companies’ profitability and erodes global competitiveness.

And that’s why health system costs is the #1 stress factor for U.S. business.

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