Ever-increasing healthcare costs are a shock wave for corporations, Deborah McKeever, president and COO of EHE International told attendees at EHS Today America’s Safest Companies Conference on Sept. 11, but the tsunami is on its way.

McKeever estimated the indirect cost of chronic disease – loss of productivity, etc . – to business as $1.1 trillion. But that’s not the worst part; that cost will skyrocket to $4.2 trillion by 2023. EHE International is a pioneer in the fields of employee health and lifestyle management and for 100 years has been devoted to the safeguarding of future health through the prevention of disease before it occurs.

“Seventy-five percent of chronic diseases are preventable,” said McKeever. “That means we can do something to manage, prolong the onset of symptoms or prevent them entirely. But more than half of Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases.”

The escalation of preventable chronic illness in this country and around the world “threatens our very existence,” said McKeever, “and that’s the conversation we really need to have.”

“Without real improvements in health, fit-to-work adults might just become an endangered species, and that’s the tsunami.”

Using diabetes as an example, she said that executives have a choice: figure out how they are going to accommodate a work force suffering from poor eyesight, physical infirmities and other problems related to chronic Type 2 diabetes, or become advocates for healthier lifestyles for themselves and their employees. “These people will not be able to function in society without significant aid,” she said of people suffering from unregulated Type 2 diabetes, “and that’s just one disease.”