The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has launched the Health and Prosperity Commission. They aim to explore the hypothesis that a fairer country is a healthier one, and that a healthier country is a more prosperous one.
The Commission draws on existing evidence and new findings following the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which closely links health and the economy. Both the economic and health impacts seen throughout the pandemic are an injustice and the IPPR commission will now spend two years creating ‘a blueprint to harness the full potential of better health for all’.
The Health and Prosperity report presents new evidence which demonstrate how certain socio-economic policy decisions have led to some people living shorter lives and spending less time in good health which in turn has a negative impact on the economy.
IPPR revealed that compared to pre-pandemic numbers there are now one million less people in the workforce. Factors such as long-Covid, mental illness, and disruption to health care are responsible for 400,000 people no longer working. If the issue remains unresolved, IPPR expect this to cost the economy eight billion.
Public health is a collective issue and polling by Ipsos Mori from the past 40 years, as highlighted in the IPPR commission launch event, shows that health is consistently one of the top issues that people say matters to them.
A graph shared as part of the IPPR launch track the correlation between close, thriving relationships and good health. Research shows that in countries with a greater life expectancy at birth, individuals report having a greater number of friends and relatives they can count on.
We know that social connections are a key factor affecting our health. Whilst social isolation can lead to worse mental and physical health outcomes, evaluations of People’s Health Trust funding programmes demonstrate that having close relationships can help increase confidence and community power.
An evaluation of the Trust’s Active Communities funding programme from 2016 to 2020 found that 94% of participants strongly agreed that they were making new friends through the project. Case study research found that the effects of these new connections could be profound, providing them with the freedom to be themselves, develop support networks, and to develop shared interests that effectively supported the transfer of control.
IPPR also draw attention to the link between health inequality and economic inequality. Our income level, and job stability has significant long-term impacts on health and wellbeing. For example, people who are unemployed or in low paid jobs are more likely to have physical and mental health issues, as well as lower self-esteem.
These inequalities highlighted by IPPR are key to the process of defining health equity as a fundamental priority for policy makers. The commission acknowledges that ‘the pandemic showed that we can no longer accept the status quo of poor health, rife inequalities and an economic model that fails to ‘price in’ health as an asset.’