Major new report connects North’s poor health with poor productivity

Poor health has been linked with the North’s poor productivity for the first time in a major new report by researchers from the University of Liverpool and five other northern universities.

The ‘Health for Wealth: Building a Healthier Northern Powerhouse for UK Productivity’ report was commissioned by the Northern Health Science Alliance to look at the relationship between the North’s poorer health and its poorer productivity.

Researchers from six universities, University of Liverpool, Newcastle University, University of Manchester, University of Lancaster, University of York and University of Sheffield, examined the relationship between poor health, investment in health services and economic indicators including employment, wages and productivity.

Economic divide

Data for all local authorities in England and national survey data were used to estimate the effect of poor health and health care investment on these economic outcomes and the extent to which this contributed to the economic divide between the North of England and the rest of the country.

The researchers state that improving health in the North would lead to substantial economic gains, reducing the £4 gap in productivity per-person per-hour between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of England by 30% or £1.20 per-person per-hour.

Other key report findings:

• Tackling North’s health would generate an additional £13.2bn a year
• Workers with ill health in the North are 39% more likely to lose their job
• If these workers with ill health do return to work, their wages are 66% lower.
• Decreasing rates of ill health and mortality would reduce the gap in gross value added (GVA) per-head between North and the Rest of England by 10%
• A 1% increase in NHS spending per-head will increase the median weekly wage by £44 in the Northern Powerhouse compared to £26 in the rest of England

This is the first time the North’s poor productivity has been connected to health.

Health damaging environments

Benjamin Barr, Senior Clinical lecturer in applied public health research in the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, and one of the academics involved in the study, said: “People in the North have shorter lifetimes and longer periods of ill-health, this is because they have less access to the resources and are more likely to be exposed to health damaging environments.

“This health divide is also holding the economy of the North back. Our report shows that to build a Northern Powerhouse for everyone you need to improve health in the North.”

Report lead author Professor Clare Bambra, Newcastle University, said: “This report demonstrates the connection between poor productivity and the ill health of the North. If you improve health in the North you will improve its productivity benefiting the whole of the UK’s economy.

“For the Northern Powerhouse to reach its potential there needs to be increased investment in place-based public health in local authorities across the area. There needs to be increased NHS funding in the North, spent on prevention services and health science research.

“Work needs to be done to improve labour market participation and job retention among people with a health condition in the region. Northern poor health affects the entire country’s economy, a healthier Northern Powerhouse means a healthier UK economy.”

Dr Hakim Yadi CEO of the Northern Health Science Alliance, an alliance of universities, hospitals and AHSNs across the North of England, said: “We’re missing out on £13.2bn in the North’s economy by not being smart with investment in health.

“Post-Brexit we need to build a stronger, healthier UK economy and the North of England is a key part of this. By improving health we can also make a direct impact on productivity and that is something no government should ignore.”

More information about the report can be found here.

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