What is the Relationship between Wellness and Economic Development


Estes Park was recently ranked the smartest city in Colorado by Zippia.com[1], a Career Expert website. There was science behind the research that went into ranking us number one and with the highest average medium age in the state of Colorado, it’s no surprise.  But intelligence doesn’t always equate into health. With an aging population come concerns about overall physical health.  Wellness certainly contributes to personal wellbeing.  So how does “Wellness” play into a community’s economic health?

One of the many qualities that people look for in a potential location of a company is the intelligence of those around them.  But companies are also looking at locations that have a healthy population.  In part, it’s a combination of intelligence and health that entrepreneurs and companies are looking for when choosing a location to live, work and play.

In 2013, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced our state’s commitment to becoming the healthiest state.[2]  The plan outlined a number of statewide initiatives to reach that goal.  Among those initiatives is a strong commitment to the wellness industry.  Wellness is a key component of Colorado’s brand for both attracting tourists and new businesses. 

Colorado’s initiative is in line with national trends.  Healthier Americans for a Healthier Economy[3] wrote a report that examined how health affects the ability of states, cities and towns to attract and retain employers, and how workplace and community wellness programs help improve productivity and reduce health spending.

The case studies in the report featured first-hand accounts from business executives, elected officials and public health leaders in Minnesota, Texas, Nashville, Indiana, San Diego and Hernando, Mississippi, where employers and communities are making the connection between improving health and improving the economy. 

For instance, William Paul, Nashville, TN Health Commissioner[4], noted that “Nashville wants to attract new business.  If we’re known as a healthy city, that becomes a positive thing for economic development.  If we’re known as a city that thinks about the health of our workforce, it will be a big plus for companies.”   The city is undertaking a range of prevention efforts – including supporting community programs, workplace wellness efforts and school-based initiatives – to help make it easier for city residents to make healthier choices. 

Many employers around the country are supporting community-based and workplace wellness programs.  For example, Peter Wald, director of wellness for San Antonio-based financial services company USAA, said, “it’s much cheaper to keep people healthy than it is to take care of them when they’re sick.  The way for us to control costs is to keep people healthy. “

That’s what makes Estes Park’s local wellness initiatives appealing to businesses.  By making wellness programs and tools available through employers, employees are empowered to make lifestyle decisions that promote their own physical health, and also the economic health of their community.  

[1] https://www.zippia.com/advice/smartest-cities-in-colorado/

[2] See http://www.cohealthinfo.com/state-of-health/ for related reports. 

[3] http://healthyamericans.org/report/90/

[4] http://www.loyaltyworks.com/news-and-views/corporate-health-and-wellness/employee-retention/