A couple of weeks ago I jumped on a plane and woke up in a different hemisphere – to be more precise, Sao Paulo, Brazil. This was my second visit, and I’m already looking forward to returning again in October. I love the people, the culture, the sense of purpose, and the food (it’s ohh so delicious).
While in Brazil, I made my rounds to several companies including a client, and a government supported organization. My week culminated with a speaking engagement at Congresso Abramge, the Brazilian equivalent of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). While touring and talking with people I began to draw comparisons between Brazil and the US. When comparing the well-being needs of Brazilian people, businesses, and private health plans the one thing that really stood out to me was that their well-being needs are very similar to ours in the US.
Given that the health/wellness status of the Brazilian population is not yet as dire as ours in the U.S., Brazil is behind us in creating solutions. It is often difficult to recognize a need in its early stages. But Brazilian leaders are showing signs that they recognize the need and are searching for the same proof of concept for well-being solutions that we were in the U.S. a few years back. And they’re just in time. While Brazil trails the U.S. in obesity and other lifestyle risks, obesity is on the rise and lifestyle behaviors are getting worse. As a result of this, healthcare costs are rising (regardless of who the payer is). But we know that healthcare isn’t the only area where costs will rise. Research shows that poor health and well-being costs companies more than just healthcare spend; it impacts presenteeism and productivity, and may be robbing Brazilian businesses of vital performance even now.
The Brazilians are smart, strategic, and business savvy people and I expect they’ll take aggressive action when the time comes. I would encourage them not to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and wait until they have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel before acting.
So if there is a key takeaway from my trip it’s that Brazil has the opportunity to do what the U.S. failed to do 25 years ago, that is, act before the problem becomes so large it is hard to tackle. As I made my rounds to various organizations in Brazil, I repeatedly heard the sentiment that they were ready for the challenge, but it will take will, fortitude, and resolve. Fortunately, they don’t have to find their path blindly. Since the U.S. has gone before Brazil, we can offer encouragement, insights and wisdom.
In October, I am going back to Brazil to speak at the Encontros en Suade Corporativa, a series of conferences that address various areas of well-being. The significant number of conferences in Brazil indicate a hunger for learning more about well-being, applying it in business settings, and reaping the benefits of healthier people, lower costs, and better business performance. This gives me hope that Brazilian companies will come in ahead of the curve and might get a handle on this much earlier in the game than we did in the U.S.
I wish the Brazilians much success, and hope to be part of their mission and achievement. I think their opportunity is there for the taking.