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posted: 1/21/2013 6:02 AM

Family business, health care studies deserve attention

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Two recent studies, one pertaining to family businesses and the other to health care, are worth at least a glance -- and some thought.

• Healthcare. The U.S. spends more than $2.5 trillion annually on health care, more than any other nation; yet a study published earlier this month by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, both Washington, D.C., places us 17th on a list of 17 peer countries when it comes to male life expectancy (75.64 years) and 16th of 17 in female life expectancy (80.78 years).

The data should be sobering for business owners. In spite of the insurance costs we and our employees pay, we generally live shorter lives and, according to the data, "have a long-standing pattern of poorer health that is strikingly consistent and pervasive" over our lifetimes.

This is not an Obamacare issue, and it's not something we can blame on the poor and uninsured. The study notes additional research indicating that "even advantaged Americans -- those who are white, insured, college-educated or upper income -- are in worse health than similar individuals in other countries."

The lost days and inefficiencies that come with employee and family health issues are costly. Although the study says that "No single factor can fully explain the U.S. health disadvantage," the report lists nine areas where "Americans as a group fare worse" than our counterparts in peer countries: Infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability.

It might be time to talk to your health provider about a wellness program. We need healthy workers.

• Family businesses. Research underwritten by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which has its U.S. headquarters in New York, is a tad dated: The research was completed prior to the U.S. elections and fiscal cliff battles, including the debt ceiling, and covers only 100 owners, leaders and top executives of family businesses.

Still, family businesses have issues that often match more traditional small business concerns.

What's most interesting in the PwC survey are the five areas that family business leaders think "merit special attention" over the next year:

• Innovation -- especially, the report says, innovation tied to business goals.

• The right technology, important in part because technology drives so much of today's innovation.

• Talent -- basically having the right talent on hand, training and retaining it.

• Succession planning. The report says that formal and routinely updated succession plans help signal that a "company is here to stay."

• International expansion, indicated by a willingness to "(go) where demand is growing."

I've condensed the PwC list by leaving out the supporting conversation, but take a second look: That list of concerns fits many businesses.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at

2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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