Community investments offer healthy payoffs

Amanda Mayle

Lower blood pressure, stress levels and depression. Increased self-esteem and happiness. Longer life. If there were a prescription that offered these benefits, you might be tempted to give it a try. Spoiler alert — you knew this was coming. There’s no magic pill that promotes good overall health.

But as we head into November and what’s sometimes referred to as the season of giving, the act of helping others does offer measurable health benefits. An even greater effect could be achieved if you consider the well-being of the community as a whole.

When we think of giving, we usually consider donating food, clothing and others items to those less fortunate. That’s a wonderful way to improve the community. Strong partners put those donations to work and make meaningful changes in the lives of those who need it. Perhaps your business makes financial contributions to community agencies. That’s a great way to give back, too. Have you considered, though, how your business invests in the health of the community, not just the individuals in it?

In an article written for the Harvard Business School titled “Why Business Should Invest in Community Health,” the authors make the case many companies invest heavily to keep their employees healthy, but don’t take the next step to invest to keep the community healthy. If you think about it, the potential payoff is huge. Companies can help reduce employee health care costs and ensure future workers are more healthy. Their efforts also could benefit their reputations and lead to increased loyalty among employees. The article points out that healthy communities have more money to spend on non-health care products and services than unhealthy ones.

Community investment constitutes a long-term commitment, a targeted strategy executed throughout the year. Many large companies have implemented community initiatives. Target, for example, has invested millions of dollars in community causes. The corporate web page for Target states: “Community has always been at the core of who we are. Our efforts are rooted in caring for our communities and fostering community connections.”

In Mesa County, numerous organizations work to improve the overall health of the community through targeted investment strategies. One recent example of this was a neighborhood cleanup event in Clifton conducted as part of a community transformation initiative. Multiple organizations came together to donate time and resources to help residents clear out trash and unwanted items. Over a three-day period in one square mile, 140 tons of trash were hauled away. The event directly affected one neighborhood, but the benefits of a cleaner, safer community benefits people outside that area.

“What better way to usher in the community transformation than to show them a tangible way of giving back,” said Greg St. Marin, a Mesa County code compliance officer.

The great thing about community investment is it means different things to different people. What a terrific opportunity to tailor your activities to meet the vision and values of your business.

As we approach the season of giving and set goals for the year ahead, consider ways to invest in the community. It could be the greatest gift you can give.