This health summit had quite a few surprises.
I expected a day of talks. There were lots: 13 talks to be exact. I expected speakers to dive into the world of technology. That was there, too. And more.
The 2016 Asia Health Summit at Marriott Hotel, Pasay City, Philippines last 12 October 2016 had speakers talking about one’s job (yes, that includes the boss!) as a major stressor, about how companies need to look after the wellness of their employees, and about health gadgets for workers.
What I didn’t expect were what I deemed the fun intermissions: a 15-minute motivational talk from Arun Gogna about health and laughter, an on-the-spot session on proper breathing from Urban Ashram Yoga teacher Maricar Pastrana-Holopainen, and skits based on the healthy living learnings of Pastrana-Holopainen, Nutrition Coach and Bootcamp Trainer Rebecca Lwin, and Healthway Vice-President for Sales and Marketing Carmie de Leon that culminated in a five-minute “happy life” dance.
Hey, no one can describe this year’s Asia Health Summit as boring. On the contrary, it was—-to borrow a term from its theme—quite “business as unusual”.
The point in all these was to let the audience experience how a healthy body can breed happy people, particularly in the workplace.
Firms Go for Health Programs But Are Employees Signing Up?
In Southeast Asia, 36 percent of employers are held back from implementing a comprehensive health and wellness corporate program because they think there is a lack of evidence on the returns on their efforts, according to a 2015-2016 survey presented by Susan Lachica, Head of Willis Towers Watson’s Health and Group Benefits.
According to the Willis Tower Watson website, “Employers also recognize that their strategies and programs aren’t as effective as they could be. Lack of employee engagement in programs, inadequate budgets, and lack of metrics are hindering program effectiveness and in some areas, rates of program adoption.”
Lachica’s presentation set to establish that employers’ investment in health programs is connected to an improvement in employees’ performance. However, she also noted that “Employees expect employers to create healthcare programs but they also want to still be the ones to decide whether to participate or not.”
If the responsibility over health lies with the employee, do Asians actually give enough importance to it?
Putting the Money Where It Matters
“Health behaviors account for 50 percent of what makes you healthy,” said Beng Coronel, president of Healthcare Information Management Association of the Philippines as well as of PointWest Technologies.
Health behaviors as a factor affecting wellness is followed by environment (30%) and genetics (20%) and access to care (10%).
Ironically, people spend only 4 percent on health behaviors. An astounding 88 percent is instead spent on medical services.
Coronel therefore advocated “putting the money where it matters: on improving your health behaviors.“ The point is, people should be adopting these health behaviors to avoid huge medical bills to cure themselves. Prevention, thus, is still far less costly but has far greater impact on health.
These “health behaviors” are the age-old sensible advices. No rocket science formulas, folks: stop smoking, take at least seven hours of sleep, hydrate-hydrate-hydrate, exercise daily. These are advices everyone hears and reads about regularly.
Still, despite the menu of health-related programs offered by employers—anything from exercise sessions, yearly health checkups, and discounts to fitness centers—not all employees opt to get into these programs. This is where part of the problem lies.
Because the highest costs are on terminal medical cases, Coronel called for creating an awareness campaign among the wider population on where they should be investing on now to avoid the high cost of curative care in the future.
Aside from Lachica and Coronel, other speakers at the 2016 Asia Health Summit included Philippine Department of Health Undersecretary Herminigildo Valle, Lifetrack Medical Systems CEO Eric Schulze, Asia Pacific of HaelthTech Regional Director David Ehrenstrom, Medgate CEO Robert Parker, Medix Digital Solutions Founder Lloyd Tronco, Sarabia Optical President Vivian Sarabia, Philcare CEO Noemi Azura, GenRx Healthcare Head Winnie Lee, Healthway Special Projects Consultant Ricky Braganza, and Bioessence Senior Vice-President Joseph Feliciano.
This year’s Asia Health Summit was sponsored by Healthway Medical and organized by the Asia CEO Forum.