WIP Jean Accius

‘A healthy community means healthier businesses, which means a more robust economy’

A conversation with Jean C. Accius, PhD, President & CEO, CHC: Creating Healthier Communities

In this episode of Work in Progress, I am joined by Jean C. Accius, PhD, the president and CEO of CHC: Creating Healthier Communities, to discuss the link between employment and mental and physical health.

For nearly 70 years, CHC has been on the front lines of working with businesses, nonprofits, government, and communities to address the barriers to health and longevity. Earlier this year, Accius joined the organization after more than 15 years at AARP, where he led his team in creating a business case for diversity in the workforce and conducting seminal research on the contributions of the aging population to the global economy.

While there are many factors to consider in building a healthy community, Accius says “work is a social determinant of health, a social driver of health.”

Here is some of what he shares in our conversation.

“As we continue to come out of this pandemic, we are having to examine and prioritize what matters, and that is actually your total health, meaning your mental, your physical, your emotional well-being. Think about the opportunities that come with working. It gives you an opportunity to connect with people across generations. It reduces social isolation. It provides, in many cases, people not just with economic means, but also an opportunity to live out their purpose, to contribute and give back.”

CHC is engaging with the American Psychological Association to address how unemployment and lack of economic opportunity are impacting people, particularly people in marginalized communities.

“{We’re) really thinking about what that actually means for the person’s mental health and overall well-being. The CHC is thinking about not just how can we start to address mental health, but also how do we start to foster greater awareness, particularly with our partners in business, in nonprofits, as to how this actually shows up in the workplace or in the community, and how this actually impacts all of us. We are doing work in the mental health space because it has huge health and also economic implications.”

Accius says you cannot disentangle economics from the work of creating healthier communities.

“A healthy community means healthier businesses, which means more robust economy. There’s a clear connection here. Companies and countries that are going to be most competitive are going to be those that have healthier populations, which means that they’re going to be those that have healthier communities. And how do we start to look at the total health of a community is critically important.”

Accius says his new role at CHC is a natural extension of the work that he’s been doing as a gerontologist for over 25-plus years.

“There are so many benefits, particularly health benefits, with working. And we see this from study after study after study. When we’re talking about issues that impact older adults, it’s important to always think about the lifespan – life course perspective.

“So much of what impacts one’s longevity is shaped by the opportunities, or the lack thereof, that you get as you age, and it only compounds. It’s important to think about a community across all life stages. That’s the exciting aspect of this work.”

Accius and I also go into depth, discussing key initiatives and issues CHC is addressing, including maternal health and its impact on communities across the country.

It’s an insightful conversation. I invite you to listen here, or download it wherever you get your podcasts. It’s worth a listen.

Episode 273: Jean C. Accius, PhD, President & CEO, CHC: Creating Healthier Communities
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
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