Greg Fell says there is a close relationship between a healthy population and a productive economy and just as HS2 is seen as an investment in the economy, so must investment in a healthy population.
The economy is not the product of a set of activities of private businesses, rather everything is ‘in’ including the private sector, public sector and the voluntary, community and faith sectors. The actions of individual citizens are also within what should be considered as the economy.
This year’s report, on the theme Health and Wealth, makes a case that health inequality is intrinsically linked to economic inequality. It presents an argument that the central health challenge isn’t a problem for the NHS but for the whole economy.
In simple terms, poor health, which is quantifiable, has an impact on economic growth and investment in better health can have an impact on economic growth.
There is a need for people to have good jobs so they can actually work and be productive – not only paid work but any meaningful activity that provides people with a sense of purpose.
For work to be beneficial to health it needs to provide adequate pay, acceptable hours, good health and safety, job security, progression and for employees to participate in decision making.
We are seeing too many people becoming trapped in low paid, unskilled and unstable work, often interspersed with periods of unemployment. This is double-jeopardy.
On the one hand, there are significant health inequalities in the working age population, most noticeably between the employed and unemployed while on the other hand there is an increase in the number of households that experience in-work poverty.
Greg suggests that current economic structures simply aren’t working for most people and may even be impacting adversely on our health and well-being – leading to entrenched patterns of inequality and disadvantage.
Among the recommendations in this year’s report, the director of public health urged large employers to use their clout as ‘economic anchors’ – those businesses which can influence the behaviour of other businesses – in order to develop an inclusive economy.