‘Landmark’ health and wealth report to shape Sheffield policy

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Sheffield City Council say 'health and wealth must go hand in hand' after report revealed ‘worrying’ facts.

The report focused on health, work and the economy and investigated how the three influence the success of each. 

It looked into issues such as how productivity affects profit, long-term illnesses affect finding a fulfilling job and inequality can be reduced.

It was authored by Greg Fell, the director for public health Sheffield, who said it will be the basis for policy development over the next year.

He said: “Every year I have to write a report on a chosen area and pick a theme on an ongoing issue looking at the determinants of health and what matters.

“The economy isn’t just what businesses do, everything that happens in Sheffield is the economy.

“Work is a critical determinant of good health and wellbeing. This is not just about paid employment but could also be described as any meaningful activity that provides us with a sense of purpose.

“Similarly a healthy population is a critical determinant of high productivity and a flourishing economy, in the same way that a good transport network underpins economic growth.”

Almost two thirds of people in Sheffield aged 16 to 64 are working.

But figures also showed between 2010 and 2016, people were increasingly living longer and living in poor health for longer. This was worse for women and Sheffield was overall worse than the national average.

Statistics revealed the combined cost of sickness absence, lost productivity through worklessness and health-related productivity losses were estimated to be more than £1 billion a year in Sheffield alone. This is around the same amount as it costs to run the local NHS for a year.

There was also an increasing number of people living with long-term mental and physical health conditions, which was restricting them from finding and staying in a job.

Mr Fell said: “For work to be beneficial to health it needs to provide adequate pay, acceptable hours, good health and safety, job security, progression and opportunities for employees to participate in decision making.

“But with the rise of the ‘gig’ economy and self employment, the opportunities for good work are diminishing. We are seeing too many people becoming trapped in low paid, unskilled and unstable work, often interspersed with periods of unemployment. This is double-jeopardy.

“There are significant health inequalities in the working age population, most notably between those who are employed and those who are unemployed. There has also been an increase in the number of households who experience in-work poverty and disparities in health outcomes between skilled and unskilled workers, between black and minority ethnic communities.”

Mr Fell said he aimed to keep to a handful of ‘chunky’ recommendations for the year ahead, following the research, to help ‘push an open door’ to improvements.

These included: ensure big businesses promote inclusivity and influence others to do the same, use resources already available for strategies and encourage organisations to provide things like the living wage, so ‘no one gets left behind’.

He added: “Historically, these reports provide a narrative to shape policy. It has made a difference in previous years and I hope this will be as successful.”

This includes Sheffield City Council’s new social value policy - which aims ensure ethical practises throughout the workforce through tests, a code of conduct and revised tender processes, and ensure as much money as possible stays in the city.

Mr Fell said: “Although the facts are worrying, there are actions we can take but these will need to be systematic and at scale. All employers have a significant contribution to make.”

The report will be discussed at a full council meeting on Wednesday, January 9 at 2pm.