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Employer Efforts in DEI, SDOH Expected to Rise Significantly

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   April 27, 2021

A new Willis Towers Watson survey found that four out of five employers plan to promote DEI in their workplace and more than eight in ten employers believe SDOH strategies will be essential to their organizations.

Over the next three years, employers are expected to increase efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and social determinants of health (SDOH) strategies in their workplace, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey released Tuesday morning.

The research found that 80% of employers plan to promote DEI in their workplace over the next three years, an increase from the 55% of employers that took similar approaches over the past three years.

Additionally, more than eight-in-10 employers believe SDOH strategies will be essential over the next three years, compared to the 66% of employers who currently consider SDOH important for their organization.

This survey is the latest in data pointing to the importance of SDOH and DEI initiatives in the healthcare sector.

"Employers recognize the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace and are taking steps to address equity and access in their benefit programs," Rachael McCann, senior director of health and benefits at WTW, said in a statement. "By shifting benefit program discussions from inclusivity to equitable health and wealth outcomes, employers will be able to identify specific areas for improvement — and that often leads to a focus on access, affordability and quality."

Key DEI survey responses include:

  • Over 72% of employers said they will promote DEI-related aspects of their benefit programs and almost 70% will promote wellbeing programs over the next three years, which is more than double the number of employers that have promoted such programs over the last three years.
  • While 50% of respondents have already made strides on their maternity benefits, family planning, and fertility programs, an additional 33% plan to act in the next two years.
  • Almost 50% of employers have introduced transgender benefits, while an additional 30% plan to roll them out over the next two years.
  • Over half of employers have addressed employee resource groups and absence programs, while an additional quarter plan to do so within the next two years.

The survey found employers are looking to "examine key healthcare indicators” through an SDOH lens. Key SDOH survey responses include:

  • Over 40% of employers conducted an assessment to examine virtual care access among employee groups, while over 30% are planning or considering doing so over the next two years.
  • Over 30% evaluated SDoH factors during preventative care and screening visits, while nearly one-third of respondents are planning or considering doing so over the next few years.
  • Over 30% examine healthcare utilization by key conditions, while over 35% are planning or considering doing so in the next few years.
  • Over 20% have evaluated the affordability of benefits compared to salary, while almost 30% are planning or considering doing so in the next few years.

"The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated already existing health disparities,” Julie Stone, managing director of health and benefits at WTW, said in a statement. “Yet, it has also helped employers to understand the need to address social determinants of health in their benefit program strategies. By doing all they can to understand the needs of each workforce sector, employers can make it possible for all employees to thrive.”

Related: New ProMedica Exec: SDOH Strategies 'Critical' for Industry Success

Related: 3 Strategies for Hospital CEOs to Transform Their Organizations

Related: Wellbeing, Caregiving Programs Fall Short for Most Employees

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


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