The issue: 

Unhealthy workers lead to unhealthy margins at work.

What we think: 

Business leaders should come together to create wellness programs that set the Springs apart from the rest of the nation.

Margaret Sabin issued an interesting challenge during the Colorado Springs Business Journal’s COS CEO Lessons in Leadership conversation, a discussion with local leaders.

Her challenge: Why shouldn’t Colorado Springs be the leader in health, wellness and preventive medicine? Why can’t business leaders, community heads, nonprofit groups and medical services organizations come together to create a community focused on wellness and prevention — instead of “sick care”?

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Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, headed by Sabin, already is working with Colorado Springs School District 11 to provide interactive health care advice through bots. In a program that’s received national attention, the bots interact with employees, asking health-related questions and also checking in on mental well-being.

And the YMCA has made a start too. Boyd Williams, CEO of YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region, has a partnership with a local school district to provide after-school programs for seventh-graders, because research shows that healthy life choices made at that age affect the rest of people’s lives.

“They have coaches,” Sabin told the audience. “And isn’t that what we all need: someone to say, ‘I believe you can do this.’ It opens up a little kernel of potential — and that’s so important.”

It’s important because health and wellness affect workplace readiness and productivity and company growth. The biggest problem is what Sabin terms “diaobesity,” or the rapid growth of Type II diabetes — a problem that comes with obesity — in children.

It’s preventable. And it’s a shame more isn’t being done to prevent it.

“About 3 percent of adding people to health insurance goes toward prevention,” Sabin said. “The rest of it is taking care of people after they are already sick. And we should flip that. We should be saying, ‘Not one more child gets Type II diabetes. Not one more.’”

As the portion of health care costs related to overall gross domestic product grows — we’re now at around 18 percent — it’s time to consider what we’re doing wrong. And that’s not addressing prevention and wellness at an early age.

We agree with Sabin. Colorado Springs is healthier than other cities, but we’re becoming less healthy at the same rate as the rest of the nation. Wouldn’t it be great to be one of those “blue zones” around the world where health care costs are low, people live longer and are healthier?

It does take commitment, from CEOs to front-line workers, from owners down through the ranks. But it doesn’t mean we all have to run a marathon or take part in a triathlon.

Sabin says to start simply: Take a walk. Take 15 minutes twice a day and go for a walk. Host a nutrition session and bring healthy food. Start with moving — and health grows from there.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t other obstacles to surmount: food deserts and health care deserts combine in Colorado Springs to make it difficult to make the right choices.

But if we can use the assets here — Penrose-St. Francis, UCHealth Memorial, the new wellness center at the Garden of the Gods Club — and focus more on preventing illness — then the Springs will have lived up to its Olympic City branding. n CSBJ