Creating healthy lives

A whole-government approach to long-term investment in the nation’s health

September 2019

Creating healthy lives - Cover art

Key points

  • The health of the population is one of any nation's greatest assets. Good health improves people’s wellbeing, their productive capacity and their ability to participate in society.
  • Over the past decade there has been a significant shift in expenditure across government, moving from spending on the services and infrastructure that help people stay healthy, towards addressing problems that could be avoided in the first place.
  • This short-term approach is storing up significant problems for the future and runs the risk of widening inequalities in people’s health.
  • This publication makes the case for an ambitious, whole-government approach to long-term investment in the nation’s health. It includes five big shifts needed to embed a shared goal to improve health across the whole of government.

Read the press release

Background

The health of the population is one of any nation's greatest assets.

Life expectancy in the UK has been stalling since 2011, and there is an 18-year gap in healthy life expectancy between the least and most socioeconomically deprived populations. Fluctuations in government priorities, a tendency towards short-term political decision-making, and challenges in addressing complex dynamic issues, all lead to insufficient attention by government on creating the conditions for a healthy life.

Over the past decade there has been a significant shift in expenditure across government, moving from spending on the services and infrastructure that help people stay healthy, towards addressing problems that could be avoided in the first place. This short-term approach is storing up significant problems for the future and runs the risk of widening inequalities in people’s health.

This publication makes the case for an ambitious, whole-government approach to long-term investment in the nation’s health. We recommend five shifts in the government’s overall approach to achieving this aim and outline how investment can be rebalanced towards areas of spending that maintain and improve health, such as early years services, housing and social security.

Contents

Executive summary 

  1. Introduction and context
  2. Achieving good health for all: where are we now?
  3. What is the social and economic impact of poor health? 
  4. Government, communities and business: the role of all sectors in creating health 
  5. Storing up problems for the future: the price of short-term approaches to government spending 
  6. In it for the long term: embedding health as a shared value across the whole of government and beyond

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Further reading

Press release

More strategic, long-term investment needed across government for a healthy and prosperous nation

New Health Foundation report shows government is failing to invest in the nation’s health by focusing on short-term spending.

Quick guide

What makes us healthy?

This guide explores how a person’s opportunity for health is influenced by factors outside the health and social care system.

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A health index for England: opportunities and challenges

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This long read explores the government’s proposal to place health as a core measure of government success by creating a natio...

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Harnessing data and technology for public health: five challenges

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This long read sets out five challenges that the government needs to address if it is to harness the full potential of data a...

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