Putting a Dollar Value on Physical Activity: New Research from Vitality Group

If all adults aged 18-64 walked just 15 minutes more a day, the world economy would grow by an estimated $100 billion a year until 2050. This is the top-line takeaway from a new report on the economic impact of physical inactivity, produced RAND for the Vitality Group, a health and life insurance-linked behavior change program that incentivizes healthier living, part of Discovery Group Ltd. Discovery is a client and partner of FSG, with whom we have worked on the opportunity of shared value insurance: co-authoring a Harvard Business Review blog on ill-health prevention and Insuring Shared Value.

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor contributing to many chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and type II diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) cites insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide.

As we would expect from a shared value insurance firm that strives to be a thought-leader in this space, the report seeks to lay out the benefits of greater physical activity for business and society. If the physically inactive were to reach the World Health Organization’s recommended levels of exercise, for instance:

  • Individuals could enjoy on average an increased life expectancy of at least 2.5 years
  • Employers would gain up to 5 additional days of productive time per employee each year
  • National economies would stand to gain significantly
  • The global economy would grow by an estimated $220bn every year

This report supports Vitality’s shared value model of incentivizing healthier behaviors (and drive down health insurance premiums and costs) as a means of tackling inactivity and further strengthening the business case for employers and policymakers to invest in getting people more active.

I went to the report launch in London last week and it was very energizing to hear the CEOs of John Hancock and AIA (insurance partners that have adopted Discovery’s Vitality model) and the Chairman of Discovery and HSBC, passionately advocating for ‘shared value insurance’ strategies, and witness the WHO being energized to see companies contributing to the global health agenda and their target of 1 billion healthier lives.

“The shared value model is a win:win:win for customers, business and society.” – Mark Tucker, Discovery & HSBC Chairman

“‘We’re going to try to help you’ – a more powerful sales message than any of the benefits we offer.” – Brooks Tingle, CEO, John Hancock Insurance

“People want to be part of a firm with purpose as an employee.” – Stuart Spencer, Group Chief Marketing Officer, AIA Group

“It’s exciting to see the value of activity (or value-at-risk of inactivity) quantified by business – it strengths the WHO’s messages on what is needed to reach our goal of one billion healthier people.” – Prof. Fiona Bull, WHO

At FSG, we are excited to see a client truly living its purpose and delivering societal value through its core business. We are also encouraged to see new data and analyses become available through this report, such as estimated GDP improvements for 23 countries, potential cost savings to healthcare systems, and the use of business metrics such as employee sickness and absenteeism combined with public health metrics such as mortality rates in making the case for greater physical activity.

Learn more about FSG's Shared Value work >


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