Is it worth a company investing in prevention? Yes, is the resounding reply. Scientific studies support this proposition. At the Symposium “Return on prevention”, economists from all over the world discussed the findings these studies are based on and the other effects of investing in prevention for companies and society.
This Symposium in Panorama 3 is dynamic and interactive. The audience sits in a circle in a kind of arena, and the stage in the middle of the space is composed of three islands. Above it, suspended from the ceiling, are three circles showing what the Symposium is all about: Occupational Risks, Workplace Health Promotion and Return to Work. Presenter Bernd Treichel from the International Social Security Association (ISSA) confidently steers his guests from one island to the next.
First the studies of the economists, starting with one endorsing the premise “Prevention pays off”. Prof. Dietmar Bräunig from the Justus Liebig University of Giessen in Germany has calculated that each euro invested in safety and health at work generates a return of 2.2 euros: a telling argument for companies. Paul Duphil from France draws attention to the relationship between prevention and economic success. Prevention itself, he claims, can even serve as the powerhouse for further prevention activities. Prof. Teresa Moitinho from the European Commission confirms how important sound economic data analysis is for her daily work at the Commission. Finally, Dr Thomas Kohstall from the Institute for Work and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IAG) stresses that the necessary cost-benefit analyses have to be supplemented by a culture of prevention.
And now we hop over to the next island, to Occupational Risks. This term embodies more than meets the eye. In Europe, nearly every country has its own slightly different take. Dr Karl Kuhn from the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP) highlights these subtle distinctions. Instead of homing in on the costs and benefits, he shifts the spotlight onto the rising productivity of a healthy enterprise. And his colleague Prof. Giuseppe Masanotti from Italy has found out that not just a company, but even a whole town can benefit from health promotion.
And now we switch briefly to the audience: it’s time for some quick questions. Why are evidently only 25 per cent of companies convinced of the positive impact of prevention and not 90 per cent, one spectator – a man who works freelance – wants to know. Well, why not? The people on the stage are happy to pass on this hot potato, and the economists suspect that the figure is a little more than 25 per cent in reality.
What is the situation with returning to work after illness? How efficient are return-to-work programmes? The guests on the next island have investigated just this issue – among them Dr Christopher McLaren from the Decision Support Centre in the United Arab Emirates, Renate Jungclaus from Siemens AG in Germany, Dr Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed from the Organization for Social Security (SOCSO) in Malaysia and Philippe Conus from the Swiss Accident Insurance Institution (Suva). The latter is a staunch advocate of case management for reintegration at the workplace.
And what if companies are not convinced, if they see health and safety as a “monster”, or simply accept, with a shrug of the shoulders, that tragic accidents can happen and are a regrettable fact of life? This is where communication comes into play. “Such statements are toxic for our work,” says Gregor Doepke. The Head of Communication at the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) delivers a spirited closing talk and gives his audience five strategies to take home with them so that they can get the message across effectively. His rousing conclusion: “Transcending all cultural barriers, our message must be: Prevention pays off!”
Text: Bettina Bräuniger