How a healthier population will create a stronger future

While many studies are exploring the key drivers of population ill health, it’s clear that factors like lifestyle and our surrounding environment account for many of what determines health. Healthcare demands continue to rise while costs increase, as health takes significant public spending. Studies also suggest that UK life expectancy is stagnating and cases of health inequalities are rising, meaning we’re paying more to achieve less.

There is a need to use the power of new technologies to support future strategies and delivery of public services. For the UK, this approach is critical in the national health system. By harnessing new tech and applying the necessary policy infrastructure, it is possible to improve population health and create long-term economic growth for the nation.

The National Health Service is experiencing overwhelming demand, with approximately 7 million people waiting for treatment. Furthermore, with over 2.5 million people out of the workforce due to long-term ill health, any structured, sustainable plan must focus on prevention and improving population health. This requires a shift in our current approach, recognising individuals and our combined health as a national asset. Governments must focus time and resources on delivering the necessary conditions for health to flourish. This means more political focus and public funding toward preventative health measures, supported by drivers to enhance individual health.

We will also need to accelerate the uptake of advances in new tech that can enable health professionals to offer a more efficient health service and empower individuals to have more control and responsibility for their health. Furthermore, we require a bolder approach to regulations to make it easier for people to live healthier lives and a new framework that makes the government more responsible for public health.

In addition, we need a stricter regulatory approach to make it easier for people to live healthier lives and a new institutional framework that makes the government more accountable for public health. The NHS remains a priority for many, but delivering a healthy population is also critical. Only by supporting people to recognise their risks and supporting them to make the right choices will we improve the lives of people. Improving population health and prevention will reduce the challenges on the NHS and ensure people get access to treatment when required. Investing in our health as a national asset will deliver long-term sustainable economic growth and prosperity to benefit everyone.

The economic consequences of poor health across the nation are impacting productivity and economic inactivity, harming our growth potential. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimates that 130 million working days are lost every year due to illnesses. Strengthening our support for workplace health could reduce this figure by up to 20%, generating £60 billion for the national economy every year. Other studies suggest that smoking, obesity, and mental-health-related issues alone cost the UK economy approximately £200 billion a year. Many of the drivers of these costs are predominantly due to lifestyle and the environments we live in.

Poor health has become one of the most critical challenges of the UK economy. Andy Haldane, former chief economist of the Bank of England, explains that the UK is a weakening societal immune system constraining our capacity to grow and limiting our resistance to shock.

A radical change is required, but this cannot simply be an added investment. Focusing on addressing supply and not recognising the causes of demand is not an economically or sustainable approach, given the UK spent £229 billion on healthcare in 2021. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts the UK will spend more than 13.7% of its GDP on health by 2050. Focusing specifically on treatment is no longer a viable option. Nearly 99% of all health spending goes towards treating ill health, rather than promoting health and wellbeing, despite studies showing that public health interventions are far more productive than average healthcare expenditures.

A paradigm change is required. The emphasis must be on delivering and maximising health and less on providing a safety option when things go wrong. Strengthening political focus and public funding must be allocated towards preventative health measures, which require better primary prevention, early detection and intervention, and a greater focus on tertiary prevention. Aside from funding, the delivery and adoption of new technologies that enable health professionals to make more effective decisions is critical, and this can empower people to take greater control and responsibility over their health.

One of the main priorities of any region should be health and well-being. Apart from the necessity, the fiscal and economic requirements to improve public health are becoming more severe as the population ages and health problems and other diseases are more prevalent. The need to take decisive action is clear. Progression in data and technology is creating new opportunities to significantly improve public health. While the UK Government has named the national health service a top priority, many believe policies are too focused on the short term. 

By enabling people to recognise their risks and provide them with the support to make meaningful choices, we can live longer and healthier lives. Improving health and prevention will alleviate the unsustainable challenges we face and ensure people continue to have access to treatment when needed. By investing in health as a national asset, the UK can deliver long-term sustainable economic growth and prosperity that benefits everyone.

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