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Poor public health stifles UK economy

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Lower socioeconomic status is linked to shortened Lower socioeconomic status is linked to shortened life expectancy

A lack of government action to improve nation’s health is ‘holding back the UK’s economy’ according to report by the IPPR Health and Prosperity Commission.

Analysis in the report shows that there are now more than a million workers missing from the workforce compared to the pre-pandemic trend and about 400,000 of these are no longer working because of health factors, such as long Covid, disruption to health care and declining mental health. Unresolved, this will drag down economic activity this year by an estimated £8 billion, the researchers warn.

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‘A fairer country is a healthier one, and a healthier country is a more prosperous one,’ said Dame Sally Davies, former Chief Medical Officer and co-chair of the Commission on Health and Prosperity.

‘While the restrictions have eased, the scars of the pandemic still remain deep on the nation’s health and our economy. Not only are we facing a severe cost of living crisis, driven in part by pandemic induced inflation, we’re also experiencing a workforce shortage driven by poor health that’s holding back the economy. It has never been more important to put good health at the heart of our society and economy – and our commission will bring forward a plan to do just that.’

The report illustrates the impact of inequality on health. It explains that people living in the most economically deprived parts of the country, including Blackpool, Knowsley and Barking and Dagenham, can on average also expect to fall into poor health in just their late 50s, five years earlier than the national average and 12 years sooner than people living in the healthiest area in the country, Wokingham. This is largely down to factors like low quality housing, bad jobs, low wages and chronic stress, the report argues.

‘Good health is at the heart of a just society,’ said Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and former Health Secretary.

‘One of the fundamental beliefs of the British public is that everyone should have access to good health, irrespective of their means and location. But currently we see grave inequalities in health and opportunity across the country. Good health must be built into all the places people live across the whole country and communities must be supported to take greater control of their health and wellbeing. By doing this health can be the foundation of a just and equal economy.’

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