On Thursday 26th February Professors Rose Gilroy and Mark Tewdwr-Jones (Newcastle School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape) launched a collection of papers that they co-edited in association with the Smith Institute and the Regional Studies Association. Below is the latest in our Ideas for an Incoming Government series from Professor Gilroy, taking a look at the connection between health and the economy, and suggesting a way forward for public health delivery.
Who should take responsibility for improving the health of the nation? Is it the role of the NHS, or are we simply shifting responsibility by asking our health system to pick up the pieces (and the cost) caused by policy failures elsewhere? What is the real cost of poor health?
The Marmot Review of 2010 estimated that health inequalities cost the taxpayer over £30 billion a year in terms of lost productivity and associated welfare and health costs. Can we really afford to ignore this? A new joint report from Newcastle University academics, the Smith Institute and Regional Studies Association aims to address the issue of health inequality. Launched at Portcullis House, Westminster last Thursday, 26th February in front of an audience of local government officials, researchers, representatives of the TUC, RTPI, NHS, The Design Council and lobby groups, the report – Joining the Dots: Making healthcare work better for the local economy – discusses the far-reaching consequences of poor health and the responsibility of employers, local planners, and new governance structures in taking a pro-health position that will help to tackle health inequalities.
From considering the social and economic determinants of health; the limitations placed on people’s lives from shrinking local investment in the supply and quality of public services; the need to consider the whole city as an arena for older people’s wellbeing and the struggle to overcome institutional and cultural barriers to make new legislation work, this collection of research challenges all sectors of British society to put health at the heart of its thinking.
The debate was chaired by Andy Love, Labour MP for Edmonton, with the report launched by myself and my School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape colleague Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, as co-editors of the report. David Buck, Senior Fellow in Public Health and Inequalities at the Kings Fund joined us to talk about the links between poor health, poverty and worklessness, while Professor Sarah Curtis of Durham University presented compelling evidence linking employment status to health outcomes. Professor Curtis emphasised the long shadow that regional unemployment casts across the course of people’s lives. Elsewhere, Deputy Lords leader Lord Philip Hunt considered the role of the NHS as an employer and reflected on the recent news that Greater Manchester will have devolved power over its local NHS spending, with huge potential implications for local accountability and a new, more holistic understanding of people’s health and social needs.
However, as several contributors argued, it is the ability of individuals and organisations to overcome the often complex local governance map and develop a joint vision and shared objectives that will lead to success in addressing the UK’s deep health inequalities.
The conclusion of this report is clear: too often we intervene too late and forget that health starts where we live, learn, work and play. The key to good health is to build preventative services in communities, helping us to take care of our families, our schools, our workplaces and our playground and parks. When considering national and local spending priorities, we must understand the need to make pro-health choices to tackle the scandal of health inequality in modern Britain.
View the full report via The Smith Institute. (PDF)
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