Multinats Take Health Strategies Global

April 14, 2010 ( - As obesity, work-related stress and chronic disease accelerate among the non-U.S.-based employees of multinationals, the number of multinational companies that are taking a global approach to mitigate these so-called “lifestyle diseases” will double by 2012.

Workforce Health Strategies: A Multinational Perspective, a survey conducted by Towers Watson, found that while only about one in four (26%) multinational companies has a global health strategy in place , an equal number plan to implement a global health strategy by 2012. Among companies that currently have a global health strategy in place, 74% apply that strategy to 95% of their employees or more, and 71% apply it to all the countries where they have significant business operations.  

The survey data also shows that 77% of the companies surveyed offer employee health programs in lieu of, or in addition to, publicly provided programs in all or most of the countries in which they operate. The role of this supplementary coverage is to either “top up” the local socialized system or fill an important gap in countries where there is a significant deficit in the public health system.  

With chronic conditions, stress and behavioral issues driving medical inflation, multinationals are beginning to shift the focus of their global health care programs from the cost of care to the prevention of illness, Towers Watson said. Many companies indicate that stress (83%), chronic conditions (77%), and obesity (63%) can have a high or moderate impact on their health care costs and workforce productivity, but few multinationals today have implemented the tools to effectively manage them on a truly global basis.  

Only 40% of respondents provide case management programs (in most or all countries), which typically monitor, coordinate and help improve patient care, quality and costs for individuals with complex conditions. Only 25% of companies provide disease management programs (in most or all countries) aimed at addressing chronic illnesses.  

Just over 30% offer health promotion, health screenings and behavioral health programs in most or all countries. Only 25% provide health risk assessments in most or all countries.  

Towers Watson said the slow adoption of many of these tactics is partly due to the challenges multinationals face when implementing them outside the United States. Survey respondents indicate that non-U.S. markets lack available or reliable health care cost data (51%), health care products and services (44%), and desired health care vendors (39%).  

Conducted in late 2009, the survey includes responses from 106 organizations that have at least 500 employees and significant business operations in more than one country. Ninety-three percent of the participating companies are based in North America and manage, on average, 25 health programs and operate in 20 countries around the world.  

More information is at