health is your business
By tom rath
Wellness | September 21, 2016
If you work for a business, improving health is your job. Here in the United States, employers and workers alike shoulder the collective healthcare costs of everyone who works for their organization.
Whether you realize it or not, your insurance premiums are paying for the colleague who eats bacon cheeseburgers for lunch every day, is rarely active, and tired throughout the day as a result. Nothing breaks household finances, corporate balance sheets, or national economies faster than poor health. This economic cost is just one piece of the problem.
There is a much larger reason why I decided to focus all my time and energy on improving health, after writing business books for the last decade:
I am tired of seeing people suffer unnecessarily and die early.
That may sound dramatic, but it is the truth. We are literally killing ourselves, sapping our energy, and destroying our wellbeing as a result of lousy decisions we make about our health each day. Last year, after losing far too many friends, colleagues, and loved ones to largely preventable conditions, I had enough. So I stepped away from a job I loved to dedicate all of my time to help fix this colossal problem.
After studying the state of health and business for more than a decade, it is clear to me that improving health is the biggest social and economic challenge of our time, all wrapped into one. What’s more, preventing disease is a deeply personal topic for me, one that I have been researching for many years.
While I’ve been reluctant to share this before, I have been battling cancer for the past 20 years. I have a rare genetic disorder that has led to cancer in my eye, kidney, pancreas, adrenal glands, and spine. In order to stay ahead of my condition, I review hundreds of studies every month to figure out how I can slow the growth of new tumors and spread of existing cancers. What I learned, not only about how to prevent cancer, but also how to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and obesity – is remarkably encouraging.
The vast majority of human disease and illness is preventable. There are hundreds of specific, proven actions we can take to increase our odds of living longer and stronger. What matters most are the small decisions we make each day, ones that give us more energy in the moment and also prevent illness in the future. Unfortunately, most of this knowledge goes to waste, as we continue to make decisions that poison our future.
In order to help fix this problem, I decided to go completely offline last September. I felt compelled to help the people I care about and be a part of fixing this global epidemic of disease. So I literally closed my inbox, stopped taking speaking requests, meetings, phone calls, and did not travel. Instead, I spent all of my time trying to distill what I had learned over the years into a book. My goal was to summarize the most essential findings on human health for a general audience.
I am back online now, after submitting a final draft of a book on this topic for publication. The new book, Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes, contains the most proven and practical ideas from all of this research. While the book will be out in early October, that is just one piece of a larger conversation. It is clear from all of my research: the only way we can curb this global health crisis is one social network at a time.
If you look back to the way communities made littering socially unacceptable, it happened one network at a time. Then I will admit that I did not start recycling for all the ‘right’ altruistic reasons, but as a result of peer pressure from my social networks. Here in the United States, our biggest social networks (workplaces) have literally kicked smoking to the curb faster than I thought was possible. Yet these challenges pale in comparison to what we face today, with an unnecessary epidemic of poor health.
So I am going to make health my business, and I encourage you to do the same. We owe it to our families, friends, and organizations. Now that I am back online, I will continue to post here on these topics and look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas about how we can save lives, organizations, and economies.