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Jun 20, 2023
Advancing health equity in the modern and diverse workforce
Two manufacturing workers review a factory process while holding a tablet.

Labor shortages may be an issue in many sectors, but some employers are seeing a disproportionate impact: While just 9% of white-collar organizations say their profitability has suffered from the labor crunch, more than four times that many blue-collar organizations (37%) have reported similar experiences.

Manufacturing is a prime example, with Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute estimating the industry could have 2.1 million jobs openings by 2030. But not only are manufacturing leaders wrestling with hiring challenges, they're also facing an extreme lack of diversity: Their rapidly aging workforce is  67% white and 70% male.

As manufacturing organizations contend with these interrelated trends by diversifying recruitment outreach, they must ensure they're ready to meet the health needs of a rapidly evolving workforce. They have some work ahead of them to change perceptions: 49% of female, 59% of Asian, and 70% of African American/Black employees in manufacturing say their organization should do more to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

This aligns with a broader evolution toward DEI initiatives across all sectors as leaders recognize the value diversity brings. For example, racially and ethnically diverse organizations are 35% more likely to improve overall business performance.

While particularly relevant for manufacturers, the importance of diversity is key for all employers. They can address gaps for improved and lasting recruitment and retention by ensuring physical and behavioral health coverage supports health equity for the diverse needs of their workforce. This means selecting, communicating, and reinforcing benefits in an accessible and engaging way.

How health equity helps

Many things make it harder for people to achieve good health, but environmental factors, socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood attributes, and health behaviors known as social determinants of health (SDOH) have a more significant collective impact on health and health outcomes than health behavior, health care, and the physical environment.

When organizations strive for health equity, they take SDOH into account to help ensure all people have the same opportunities to thrive. But they often need support in different ways.

This is where health benefits come in, and how Cigna Healthcare's approach to health equity is integrated into those benefits. The support employees get through their health benefits can help them access specific resources unique to their needs.

Personalized benefits help reduce health disparities

Providing equitable access and engagement to health benefits help workers overcome disparities that may be preventing them from better mental and physical health. Equitable access and points of engagement can include virtual care, digital care, onsite health clinics, and home delivery pharmacy  all designed to give employees what they need, when and where they need it.

The health benefits employers offer also provide opportunities to be more inclusive through support programs. Cigna Healthcare, for example, is committed to support for healthy birth outcomes and maternal care for Hispanic/Latino and African American/Black women. We also took a step recently to improve the health care experience for LGBTQ+ customers by updating online directories on myCigna.com to display providers who identify with the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare as interested and experienced in caring for LGBTQ+ patients providing confidence, trust and respect.

Cigna Healthcare supports employers not just by offering equitable programs but by providing personalized consultation around building the best benefits mix based on an organization's unique workforce.

This starts with data. Who are your current employees? What are their daily challenges, inside and outside of work? Who are you targeting for recruitment? With these insights, we help employers become more aware of SDOH factors affecting their workforce today so they can better prepare for the diverse workforce of the future.

The path toward health benefits equity

As employers navigate to improved benefits equity, advanced data and analytics can help guide them. Cigna Healthcare's approach to insights is fueled by our Social Determinants Index (SDI), a proprietary data engine that predicts behaviors and outcomes and reveals health disparities across populations and subpopulations.

Using the SDI, Cigna Healthcare helps employers identify and prioritize employees who may be at risk. This insight informs and identifies the additional support or resources these employees may need, such as personalized information about disease prevention or how to find a doctor in a healthcare “desert,” where few health care professionals are located.

Our consultative approach combines these SDI insights with client population and provider data to offer personalized support whether the organization is in manufacturing, technology, or another industry. The employer’s Cigna Healthcare team can assess workers across their ethnicity, gender, age, and ZIP code to identify groups requiring more nuanced health benefit support.

This helps the organization succeed, because these vast and varied inputs can be used to build a more sustainable and successful benefits mix to better support an increasingly diverse workforce.

Thriving on opportunities

As labor shortages converge with a growing need to better address gaps in care among diverse employees, organizations have a key opportunity.

Health equity has become a priority across all industries, but especially in manufacturing. Health benefits play a significant role not only in building a more supportive work culture, but as an ally helping employees overcome their unique health disparities and achieve their optimal health, wellness, and vitality.

As you look to shape your benefits to be more representative and inclusive to better serve your employees and your future talk with your Cigna Healthcare representative or broker today.

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