Companies report their financial earnings and a growing number of them report their sustainability efforts, so why shouldn't they report their employee health metrics? That is the recommendation of a new report from the Vitality Institute, an organization based in New York but funded by Discovery Limited, a South African health insurance company.

The report, "Investing in Prevention: A National Imperative," focused on recommendations for health promotion and preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The report's five recommendations were:

  1. Invest in prevention science, which involves making prevention the focus of healthcare decisions for both businesses and government.
  2. Strengthen and expand leadership to deliver a unified message for health and prevention.
  3. Make markets work for health promotion and prevention, which includes incentives for using healthier products and services.
  4. Integrate health metrics into corporate reporting.
  5. Promote strong cross-sector collaborations that generate a systemic increase in health promotion and prevention across society.

The report, which includes pathways for putting each recommendation in place and short, medium and long-term measurements for their success, states:

"The consequences of NCDs have short- and long-term effects by forcing individuals to exit the workforce prematurely due to their own poor health, or to care for ill relatives. Lower productivity and higher absenteeism, combined with soaring costs of treatment, impede innovation and crowd out productive investment in education and research and development."

Eighty percent of NCDs could be prevented, according to the report, and the prevention of those diseases by 2023 could save the United States between $217 billion and $303 billion per year, which is about five percent to seven percent of annual healthcare spending.

"Without coordinated leadership and immediate action, the costs and impact of NCDs will further burden future generations and stifle economic and personal well-being for decades to come," the report states.

The report was put together by a commission of people from a variety of business, academic and healthcare fields, including Microsoft Corp., IBM, AARP, Humana, Johns Hopkins University, Qualcomm and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The recommendations developed after commission members reviewed research on chronic disease prevention, commissioned its own research on the topic and debated the findings. Much of that research is available on the organization's website.