We need to reposition health as one of the primary assets of our nation

Health Foundation response to the Chief Medical Officer annual report 2018: Health 2040 – Better Health Within Reach

21 December 2018

Tim Elwell-Sutton, Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Health Foundation and an author of the report, said:

'We support the ambition set out by the Chief Medical Officer today to reposition health as one of the primary assets of our nation. We should look beyond economic indicators as measures of whether our society is flourishing and prioritise health for the benefit of individuals, society and the economy.  

‘As we set out in the report, we need an expanded view of what it means to be healthy, along with better ways of measuring this at national and local levels. We welcome the recommendation for an index for wellbeing, which includes social determinants of health.  

‘The vision to achieve a healthier UK population and reduce health inequalities by 2040 is aspirational but not unachievable. However, it will need action across all sectors of society and investment to tackle the underlying causes of health inequalities – such as poverty, education and housing. We are pleased to see recommendations which focus on tackling health inequalities and taking significant action on childhood obesity.

‘Local government has a vital role to play in creating healthy local environments. However, the ability of many local authorities to make long-term investments in improving health is constrained by a combination of deep budget cuts and growing demand for services. Local leaders must be adequately resourced, empowered and incentivised to prioritise long-term health over short-term service provision. Finally, the business sector also has a key role to play. The UK Corporate Governance Code should require businesses to report the impact of their actions on the health and wellbeing of employees, customers and communities.’ 

Further information

  • Chapter ‘Creating a Healthy Environment: enabling flourishing communities’ in Chief Medical Officer annual report 2018 was authored by Tim Elwell-Sutton, Louise Marshall, David Finch and Jo Bibby at the Health Foundation - looking at the local health environment.
  • The Health Foundation believes that health should be viewed as an asset to be invested in. As outlined in our briefing, The nation’s health as an asset, we want to see more action on the strategies that help people stay healthy. To increase the evidence base, the Health Foundation is funding a research programme on the social and economic value of health.
  • For health to be recognised as an asset, long-term upstream investment is needed – including for local authorities, which play a key role in creating healthy environments. This should include additional funding for the public health grant and adult social care, as well as reversing cuts to libraries, public transport, children’s services and leisure facilities.
     

Further reading

Briefing

The nation's health as an asset

A briefing that asks: what is the social and economic value of maintaining and improving people's health?

Blog

Prioritising the nation’s health as an asset

David Finch explains why we need to start thinking about our nation’s health as an asset requiring investment.

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