- Available in: Print and PDF
- Published: May 1, 2008
Edited by Christopher Exeter.
Published 2008 (ISBN 1 905370 38 5) Price £9.95
The health of the nation is closely bound up with the country’s economic and social wellbeing. A lack of access to good physical or mental health can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to participate actively in society – as both a citizen and as an economically-active individual. For the state, therefore, the cost is not only in the healthcare being provided, but in the opportunity cost of not having a healthy workforce. Government, at all levels, has a responsibility to invest in and support the nation’s health. With an ageing population and our current lifestyle trends, healthcare will become prohibitively costly unless we are able to make our health services even more responsive and efficient, and – as addressed in this monograph – unless we can get the public, employers and other partners in the public and private sectors to take greater responsibility for the encouragement and support of healthy living. All the essays in this monograph address themselves to that critical challenge: the need to increase public engagement in personal health issues, influencing lifestyle trends and ultimately demand for health services. Encouraging greater health-awareness could bring significant economic dividends, but there will be heavy economic costs to Britain if people fail to engage with this health agenda. Achieving this is no small task, and will involve partnership and engagement across a number of different sectors and departments. The health service cannot, by itself, achieve the changes necessary to make us a healthier society. Government-backed public health promotion is a critical element but, as David Walker’s essay sets out, we need a “new politics of healthy living”. The challenge for government is to avoid the expansion of a nanny state and instead to stimulate new approaches from a range of other partners and sectors. The essays in this monograph consider the potential roles of different partners – the insurance industry, planners, developers, regional development agencies and others. The essays highlight the complexity of the task of improving public health, and set out a range of ideas that might help in developing new ways of working, in which government needs to be more of a partner and orchestrator.