Key points

  • This briefing calls for coordinated action across government to improve health and health equity and generate future prosperity. The economic costs associated with poor health are high, with government estimating these at around £100bn a year. Future economic prosperity requires investing in the conditions that improve people’s health – such as education and employment opportunities, housing, social networks and healthy environments.
  • Improving health requires action to be taken by the whole of government, not just the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS. The ‘levelling up’ agenda, and the reorganisation of the public health system, provide an opportunity to drive cross-government action.
  • To make the most of this opportunity, government needs to set out a national framework for action. This will require strong political buy-in and mechanisms to drive efforts across the whole of government – such as a binding target to reduce health inequalities and a commitment to make improving health an explicit objective of every major policy decision.
  • Government also needs to create the conditions for others to play their part in improving health. Local authorities have a central role in improving health but have experienced cuts to baseline budgets in recent years. Government needs to provide sufficient and sustainable funding but also flexibility in how funding can be spent, multi-year settlements and further devolution to support joined-up, place-based working.
  • Finally, ensuring adequate accountability of efforts to improve health will mean government establishing mechanisms to ensure there is public visibility of progress. Regular independent monitoring by the National Audit Office and increased parliamentary scrutiny would build momentum.