A Dallas-based occupational medicine physician who consults with companies on their occupational health programs, Melissa Tonn serves as the president and chief medical officer of OccMD Group, P.A. As part of her work as a Dallas-based medical benefits manager, Melissa Tonn has an interest in studying the impact of social determinants on health.
Non-medical factors, known as social determinants, can have a large impact on people’s health outcomes. For instance, socio-economic status, race, and the environments in which people live, learn, and work have a significant influence on their ability to maintain health. As more policymakers realize that addressing social determinants of health can lead to both improved health outcomes and long-term cost savings, they are adapting some health plans to cover non-medical benefits and starting to move toward a more comprehensive care model.
Currently, nearly 95 percent of healthcare expenditures fund direct medical care, rather than comprehensive programs focused on mitigating the negative impacts of social determinants of health. Researchers estimate that an individual’s social and physical environment make up about 20 percent of their overall health picture, with behavior accounting for another 40-50 percent. Given that health care delivery only impacts health during injury or illness, more attention must be given to the social determinants that impact health on a daily and long-term basis.
After completing occupational medicine residencies at the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center, Melissa Tonn assumed the role of president and chief medical officer of OccMD Group, P.A., in Dallas. In addition to overseeing occupational injury medical management for employers who opt out of Workers’ Compensation, Melissa Tonn serves as an advisory board member for the New Friends New Life organization.
New Friends New Life seeks to empower survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation while building a movement to stop the abuse. In the Dallas area alone, the illegal sex trade takes in $99 million annually, according to Department of Justice data. New Friends New Life takes the stance that the pornography industry is a gateway to sexual trafficking and exploitation. Since data shows that most pornography is viewed during the daytime, part of the organization’s strategy is building alliances with employers to reduce employees' pornography consumption at work.
To this end, New Friends New Life established an advocacy group focused on reducing men’s pornography consumption called the No Harm Network. The initiative asks businesses to protect women and girls from sex trafficking and exploitation by adopting and enforcing specific policies in the workplace. These policies include controls to deter employees from visiting pornographic websites while working as well as rejecting business expense reimbursement for adult entertainment, such as visiting a strip club. New Friends New Life believes these proactive measures help reduce the demand for sexual exploitation and trafficking of teen girls and women.
The president and chief medical officer of OccMD Group, P.A., in Dallas, Texas, Melissa Tonn is board-certified in occupational medicine. The author of many medical publications, Dallas-based occupational medicine manager Melissa Tonn works with companies on disability management and the development of optimal employee health and wellness programs.
Companies can take several steps that will lead to improved employee health in the long-term. Employee wellness programs should promote physical activity and self-care through daily movement breaks and even daily short walks outside. Breaking up the sedentary time spent at a computer can not only improve focus, but also reduce the occurrence of muscular and skeletal disorders. Another idea might be to incorporate a work-out or physical fitness room into the office, where employees can go to stretch, work on tight areas with foam rollers, or even take a brief pause from their desk to do yoga or lift weights.
In addition to encouraging physical activity, companies should also provide good nutrition options to their staff. Instead of donuts or pastries at the conference table, consider ordering from a service that delivers fresh fruit, salads, or other healthy options. Also, make sure to stock the vending machine or snack room with foods like nuts and fruit, rather than cookies and chips, to help employees make healthier choices on a daily basis.
An experienced physician, Melissa D. Tonn, MD, specializes in musculoskeletal disorders, workers’ compensation and disability cases, and chronic regional pain syndrome.