Building Healthier Communities: The Power of Employers and Equity Connect

Impact Labs

As we strive for healthier and more resilient communities, it's crucial to recognize the significant role that employers play in shaping the well-being of their employees and the broader population. With over half of the US population obtaining health coverage through their jobs, employers hold a unique position of influence in potentially promoting health equity and fostering a culture of wellness. By leveraging this influence, employers have the power to not only enhance the health of their workforce but also positively impact the communities where their employees live.

It is becoming increasingly evident that employers are more than just job creators—they also can be stewards of health and well-being. Workplace environments and policies can have a profound impact on employee health outcomes, from access to preventive care and wellness programs to support for mental health and work-life balance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), workplace wellness programs have been shown to reduce healthcare costs by an average of $3.27 for every dollar spent, highlighting the tangible benefits of investing in employee health.

Moreover, employers have a vested interest in promoting health and wellness among their employees. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce, with lower rates of absenteeism, reduced healthcare costs, and increased job satisfaction. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with comprehensive wellness programs experience a 25% reduction in absenteeism and a 40% reduction in healthcare costs, demonstrating the significant return on investment for employers that prioritize employee health.

One of the most powerful ways employers can promote community health is by extending wellness benefits to their employees and their families. Comprehensive health insurance coverage, access to preventive care, and support for mental health services are just a few examples of how employers can prioritize employee well-being. Additionally, by offering wellness programs and resources that address the unique needs of their workforce, employers can empower employees to take charge of their health and make informed decisions about their well-being.

As an employee of a small non-profit organization, I've personally experienced the disparities in accessing wellness services beyond traditional medical care. Compared to large firm (public or private), the difference in available wellness perks, often extending beyond typical coverage, are substantial. However, for employees outside these large firms, access to such services may be financially out of reach, despite their need for mental health services, burnout prevention, and workplace trauma support.  

This disparity became especially apparent to me during my pregnancy and postpartum, when I found myself in one of life's most vulnerable phases. It was during this time that I realized the value of having access to additional wellness services, ones that addressed my holistic well-being and supported me through this transformative journey. Yet, for many employees of small to mid-size firms, these services are often out of reach, exacerbating existing health inequities within our communities. The lack of access to these services can be due to inadequate or non-existent wellness funds available to employees at small-mid-size companies, in addition to less awareness of the myriad of potential wellness needs of current and future employees.

These transformative moments in one’s life are where employers can play a particularly pivotal role. By prioritizing employee health and investing in comprehensive wellness initiatives, employers could create a ripple effect that extends far beyond the workplace, ultimately contributing to healthier and more vibrant communities.
Employers that offer comprehensive wellness programs not only foster a positive work environment but also experience tangible benefits such as reduced absenteeism, increased job satisfaction, and improved productivity. Moreover, by extending wellness benefits to employees' families, employers can further amplify their impact, creating a culture of health and well-being that extends beyond the workplace walls. Yet many employers, especially small- and mid-sized firms, do not have the capacity to offer their employees these benefits. 


Enter Equity Connect—a proposed community-driven benefits platform aimed at bridging the gap in access to wellness services, particularly for small and mid-sized firms.  This platform connects culturally competent and innovative vendors with employers. For small-mid-size firms, it serves as a cost-effective and powerful tool for employee retention, fostering a healthier and more engaged workforce. Moreover, the platform is built for hyper-local and individualized wellness services, recognizing the importance of community-specific interventions. Equity Connect will allow participants to receive up to 60% coverage for services provided by community-driven businesses vetted through the Economy League’s Impact Labs process, which identifies and supports local social entrepreneurs, such as The Hermitage: At Home and Hey Auntie, to promote local economic growth and community development. 

Participating employers will subscribe to the Equity Connect platform for their organization, utilizing their employee wellness fund allocations to contribute towards services. Equity Connect will provide economies of scale for employers to allow them to offer wellness services in a cost-effective manner. The Economy League is also seeking philanthropic and corporate support to help cover residual costs for employees to lower barriers to access; at least during the pilot phase external support will allow the package to be cost-effective to participating employers.  By employers extending this value proposition to their employees, Equity Connect anticipates not only transforming how employees traditionally access wellness services that are not typically covered by insurance but also contributing significantly to the prosperity and growth of diverse service providers. 

As we navigate the complexities of healthcare in the 21st century, employers have a crucial role to play in driving positive change. By recognizing the importance of employee health and well-being, employers can become catalysts for building healthier communities from the ground up. Together, let us harness the power of employers and initiatives like Equity Connect to create a healthier, more equitable future for all.