Employment: A Key to Better Health


Collie Thomas is an orderly at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Each day, she stocks patients’ rooms with supplies, transports patients, and delivers medical records. It’s not a glamorous job, but Collie plays an important role in helping the hospital run smoothly, and she is extremely grateful for the opportunity. Unlike many in our country, Collie has a steady source of income.

As of April 2017, more than 7 million people were unemployed. This number, however, has been on a steady decline. The healthcare industry in March 2017 alone added 14,000 new jobs. And, organizations like Johns Hopkins are not only adding jobs, but offering these positions to people who need them the most.

For people that have trouble finding and keeping a steady job, employment impacts more than income; it also impacts overall health. Unemployed adults in the U.S. are 50% more likely to be in poorer health and 83% more likely have a stroke, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other preventable conditions. While the stress of being unemployed is a contributing factor to these adults’ health, another is access to care. Only 54% of the U.S. population maintains the health insurance needed to prevent and treat these conditions through their employers.

Economic stability, which includes employment, is one of the core social determinants of health outlined by the Healthy People 2020 plan. Fortunately, the unemployment rate in the U.S. has been cut in half during the past five years, but it’s not easy for some populations to find and keep a job.

To fill the need, community organizations have stepped up to be liaisons between the unemployed and the employer. Turnaround Tuesday, whose name plays off a second try for voting rights in the 1960s, helps people struggling to find work by providing personal and professional development, and also advocating for them with employers throughout the Baltimore. This program helped place Collie Thomas, an ex-convict, at Johns Hopkins. 

Other organizations go beyond jobs to include other aspects of economic stability that help improve health. Rise, Inc., in Minnesota, address employment and housing instability among people with disabilities, for whom the unemployment rates is more than double the national average. Through their program, these organizations were not only able to improve participants’ financial stability, but also decrease their need for urgent medical attention with emergency room use dropping 55% and hospital admission falling nearly 30%.

Community resources like Rise and Turnaround Tuesday provide a stepping stone to better living and better health through economic stability.

At Healthify, we are focused on supporting coordinating services within communities to better address social determinants. If you’re interested in learning how, please contact us below.

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Topics: social determinants of health community-based organizations

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