Eric Hagsater
Vice President
View from the Top

Prevention Key to a Healthier Population

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 11:02

Q: What are FunSalud’s main objectives?
A: One of our major priorities is preventive care. Our health system is primarily focused on curing people who are sick or already showing symptoms of a health problem. Healthier lifestyles and early detection of health risks can help prevent many diseases. Three months ago, the Lancet journal released an article stating that the greatest cause of disease today is bad eating habits, even more than tobacco, alcohol or accidents. Conditions related to our diet, such as overweight, diabetes and high blood pressure, are health problems that have become increasingly common. If we do not stop this through preventive measures, we are not going to have enough resources to treat patients in the future.
Genomics is another area where we see major opportunities. There is a great deal of technology out there, but it is dispersed and there is a lack of cooperation between different institutions and companies. We should come to an agreement so that the information we gather can be interpreted and used by all.
We are also working to establish alliances to boost healthcare and prevention, one of which is with the Ministry of Agriculture. Healthy practices cannot thrive when vegetables and other healthy products are not affordable for the consumer. Right now, the cheapest products tend to be carbohydrates, which incentivizes an unhealthy diet.
Q: What steps have you taken to promote preventive care?
A: FunSalud has established an agreement with CCE to improve employees’ eating habits and promote physical exercise. Exercise does not necessarily mean jogging or going to the gym, it can also be walking 10,000 steps or simply using the stairway instead of the elevator. These are simple opportunities that can make people healthier. Even in companies with hundreds to thousands of employees, improvements can be easily implemented. In Aguascalientes, we worked with a company with 600 employees to increase its vegetable offering during lunchtime by 30 percent. A hundred employees also decided to voluntarily accept more limited portions. On average, participants lost 5kg and some even lost 30kg. All of them told us how much their life had improved, from interactions with their children to enjoyment at work. Instead of companies seeing this as a cost, they should see it as an investment to a healthier and more productive workforce.
Q: What role can the government play in pushing companies to introduce health incentives?
A: The government has expressed interest in promoting preventive care. However, the public system is too disorganized and seems primarily interested in simply spending money to gain votes. I believe we can push this topic among companies without the need for external incentives from the government.
Numbers show good health is vital for productivity. AMIIF conducted an analysis of Guanajuato’s automotive industry and found that absenteeism had led to an average 2 percent loss in productivity. Additionally, findings showed a further 7 percent loss due to people showing up for work in an unhealthy state. Some companies, like PEMEX, have implemented economic incentives to promote weight loss among their employees, but I do not think salary incentives are enough to foster a change in culture. That is only achieved through positive word of mouth among employees.
Q: What is the best way for companies to implement health prevention strategies?
A: To properly assess employee health, a company should have an in-house doctor or at least an infirmary. Fundación Carlos Slim developed a methodology that allows companies to detect a person’s main health issues through a few simple questions and tests. The foundation trained over 90,000 people in the use of these methods and thanks to new technologies, these can be implemented at a low cost. Genetics, for example, indicate an employee’s predisposition to certain diseases. This information can then be addressed by health professionals to provide help.