What Companies Can Learn From the Healthiest State in America

There’s a reason we should all want to live in Hawaii — and it’s not just because of the pineapple drinks and sandy beaches. It’s home to some of the healthiest people in the U.S., according to America’s Health Rankings® 2016 Annual Report by the United Health Foundation. Hawaii has a low prevalence of obesity, the report notes, and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations, among other strengths.

The report measures each state’s health based on five key factors: behaviors, community & environment, policy, clinical care, and outcomes.

What can organizations learn from the Aloha State when it comes to total well-being?

Here are three takeaways:

1. Start with the individual.

How do you improve the well-being of an entire population? Promote sustainable change at the individual level. Since January 2005, Hawaii’s Deposit Beverage Container program has helped residents to recycle more than 7 billion containers. The program certifies independent recycling companies to operate Certified Redemption Centers (CRCs) statewide. The CRCs then provide Hawaii consumers with refunds of the 5-cent deposit fee that is paid for eligible containers. It’s helped to greatly reduce litter, preventing those containers from entering the waste stream. To help make your workplace more green, encourage employees to bring in reusable water bottles instead of providing paper cups. You could also make “double-sided” the default setting on your company printers, saving paper — and trees.

2. Make well-being part of your culture.

Opportunities for physical activity abound in Hawaii, whether you want to snorkel at Hanauma Bay State Park or hike to the edge of a 300,000-year-old crater at Diamond Head State Monument. At that point, you’ve probably hit 10,000 steps a day without even taking the stairs. Brainstorm ways to help employees make healthy choices, such as adding more movement to their day. For example, you might encourage managers to schedule walking meetings when there are less than three people in attendance. Or post a list of local places or routes to walk during lunch in the break room.

3. Think preventive, not reactive.

We often look at healthcare as a last-resort solution to an existing problem. But what if we made checking in on our health part of our routine, preventing problems before they start? Hawaii educates the public on the power of prevention, through campaigns such as “Prevent Diabetes Hawaii.” And it appears to be working. In the past year, Hawaii saw a 13 percent decrease in diabetes, from 9.8 percent to 8.5 percent of adults, according to the 2016 Annual Report. Offer incentives to help motivate employees to complete their health screenings and preventive check-ups. It might help to reduce your long-term healthcare costs and — most importantly — it could even save a life.

Want to improve your workplace’s well-being? We can help. And who knows? Maybe the changes you make will even help your state move up the health rankings list next year.