'Improving health across the North would provide £13.2bn boost for UK GDP per year'
The panel event, which marked the launch of a new report by Health Equity North (HEN), was told that the five local authorities with the highest levels of economic inactivity due to long-term sickness or disability are in the North.
HEN’s research shows that improving health is associated with better economic outcomes in terms of higher employment rates, lower rates of economic inactivity and higher median weekly pay. It concluded that the effects of reductions in ill health on productivity were consistently stronger in the North than the rest of England, indicating there are higher potential productivity returns from improving population health in the North. However, health research funding in the UK is heavily concentrated in London, the South East and the East of England.
The panel of leading figures from the private and public sector discussed the impact poor mental and physical health has on the North’s economy and the interventions required to boost productivity.
Lord Jim O’Neill, the Honorary Chair of Economics at the University of Manchester and former Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, said the report highlighted the scale of the damage health challenges are causing to productivity. He added: “We have no chance of solving health inequalities unless we deal with the early years of health."
Professor Clare Bambra, HEN Academic Director, told the event at Nexus in the University of Leeds : "If we’re trying to make healthier adults, we need healthier children. This requires multiple interventions at different points to try and prevent the health problem from happening in the first place."
Dr Luke Munford, who is also a HEN Academic Director and a Health Economist at the University of Manchester, added: "We need to invest in people's health to help them become economically productive in the future." Jordan Cummins, the CBI’s programme director for health, added: “We need a climate-esque revolution in health."
Speaking afterwards, Lord O'Neill told The Yorkshire Post: "You can't deal with the economic productivity issue without sorting out the health issue and you can't deal with the health issue unless you sort out the economic issues.”
He also believes businesses must do more to improve productivity.
He added “If business really is obsessed about more skills, put more skin in the game. If I were in charge of everything to do with Government policy, I would change the tax incentive or more to change the risk-reward of company leaders; in that you can really only derive the same remunerative benefits, including for your shareholders, if you're contributing to productivity. It is up to policymakers to shake the business community up. At the end of the day they are led by the rules of the game and if the rules of the game allow them to maximise short term profit without really caring about this other stuff, that's what they are going to do."