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The Social Determinants of Health and Why They Matter

 

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The conditions in the places where we live, learn, and work are called social determinants of health (SDOH), affecting many different health risks and outcomes of our lives.

These conditions are particularly important for children, as early childhood impacts long-term social, cognitive, physical, and emotional development. Poor SDOH in the first five years of a child’s life can result in developmental delays and poor future health outcomes

Many factors such as unstable housing and low income can contribute to poor SDOH for children, but one of the predominant factors is a lack of access to adequate childcare. A staggering 62% of American parents report that they have a difficult time finding and affording high-quality childcare. Working American parents are currently undergoing a childcare crisis that threatens the health and wellbeing of not only their children, but also themselves.

A business thrives when its employees thrive. The happier and healthier employees are, the better the company functions and the more they save on healthcare costs. What many businesses don’t realize is that this focus on employee wellness must not only include employee benefits, but also family benefits. With better access to childcare for working parents, a business can improve the SDOH for their employees’ children and improve their health and wellbeing in the long term. 

The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation provides resources to help the business community support employees with access to high-quality, affordable childcare. Some of the ways that they suggest taking action is by educating leadership teams about the importance of childcare, assessing how businesses can be community leaders on the issue, and developing strategies to implement new company policies.

Flexible work arrangements for working parents such as telecommuting and flexible start/stop times are easy ways for a business to address the childcare crisis. Businesses can also create a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for employees. This is a tax break a company can offer that allows an employee to pay for up to $5,000 of childcare-related expenses with their pretax wages.

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One of the more costly (but effective) family benefits a business can provide their employees is by contributing up to $5,000 of the cost of each employee’s child. This can be done without the employee or the business having to pay tax on it, as it is not taxed as income. Another incredibly effective option is by providing on-site childcare. This provides employees with the childcare they need while ensuring that they won’t have to miss work or worry about childcare gaps4.

Providing employees with access to high-quality childcare is a win-win for both the business and the employee.  Employees will have the tools to provide their children with the childcare they need during the incredibly formative years of early childhood. This will save businesses greatly in future healthcare costs while at the same time investing in the workforce of the future.