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Elizabeth Wise

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May 18, 2021

Why Your Company Needs a Chief Health Officer

Just like everything else, company health and wellness programs are changing dramatically amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive and Human Resources teams around the world have to address both physical and emotional well-being for their staff and clients alike. People are more cautious than ever, and work and fun need new attention to health and safety.

Of course, companies need to make money, too. Executives who operate people-focused companies like movie theaters, hotels, sports complexes, and concert venues need to balance capacity with keeping patrons and employees safe. College and university public safety departments are focused on more than just crime prevention now. Airlines must contend with a host of new health measures to protect their staff and travelers.

Any company that hopes to survive beyond this health crisis has to re-evaluate not just their disaster plans but how they focus on keeping their staff and clients safe in the future. Enter the Chief Health Officer.

Chief Health Officer in Workplace


Beyond the Disaster Plan to Strategy

Organizations large and small have responded to COVID-19 and its up-ending of “normal” by finding new ways to focus on employees and customers as people. Now, organizations want strategies to

  • contain the spread of contagious viruses
  • handle the mental health pressures that have been amplified due to reduced social interaction, both in and outside of the office.

Executives admit to struggling with these new demands. Many are seeking out health experts to guide them into “the new normal.”

A growing trend in leading organizations is adding a chief health officer to the C-suite. This relatively new role is focused on two things:

  • managing the existing public health crisis and its impact on the organization
  • getting ahead of new health threats at schools, businesses, and cities alike

What Is a Chief Health Officer?

A chief health officer, or CHO, is an executive who builds and implements a strategy for health that drives business success and economic value. A good CHO can take the burdens COVID-19 has created around workplace safety off the plates of CEOs, COOs, and Human Resources.

The CHO role goes beyond medical knowledge and requires a unique capability to

  • think big
  • understand technology
  • provide guidance related to both employee and client health and wellness

Public Health as “Top Vision of the Company”

With more than 1,000 theaters from Milan to Seattle, AMC CEO Adam Aron recognized a lack of health expertise on the executive team early in 2020 and reached out to the Harvard School of Public Health for help. Five months into the pandemic he said, “The CEO of every major company in the country is going to have to make public health the single top vision of the company.”

Commenting on Aron’s dilemma, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health Michelle Williams recommended the role of chief public health officer at any major organization. “I think the chief public health officer brings a lens of assessing the social determinants of health,” Williams said. “They bring modeling and appreciation and understanding of health and social justice to the table, where these can inform practices like wage determination.”

Scale your CHO position to fit your budget

Top companies are learning from their CHOs and shifting quickly using technology and healthcare knowledge.

Not every organization has the budget to add another leader to their C-suite, however. The University of Michigan, for example, has opted for a part-time CHO.

For part-time CHOs, goals often get narrowed to suit the position, emphasizing

  • help with response to infectious disease
  • preparing for emergencies
  • addressing access for students with disabilities
  • improving access to mental health care for employees, students, and customers

Time will tell how organizations handle the demand for better communication and planning around health and well-being. Those who invest in technology now likely will better meet the growing demands from both employees and customers. Lumedic can help. We’re partnering with some of the world’s most innovative organizations to help you get back to business safely. To find out how we can help your business, contact us.

Ready to hire a CHO? Here’s What to Look For.

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