Now is the time to bring health into ESG mandates

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There is no question that health equals wealth. The pandemic has exposed the severity of poor health exacerbated by health inequalities in the world’s richest nations, including the US. There is a growing belief in the UK that the economy cannot be stimulated without health approximation.

According to the Confederation of British Industry Seize the moment It is reported that 63% of the years lost to poor health are accounted for by the working age population, and this costs the UK around £ 300 billion in lost economic output annually, excluding direct health costs.

Elsewhere in Europe, McKinsey calculates that better health – achieved through preventive strategies that lead to fewer health problems, fewer early deaths, higher participation and higher productivity – could add $ 2.4 trillion to European GDP by 2040, which is an increase of 10% or more corresponds to 0.5 percentage points of annual growth above current projections and reverses an expected decline in the labor force.

In the US, increasing healthy life expectancy by just one more year will have tremendous financial benefits, estimated at $ 38 trillion.

These compelling statistics show that it was therefore a missed opportunity in the UK government’s budget announcement on October 27th to clarify the link between health and wealth, particularly in relation to productivity, and to support it through more explicit measures to improve health .

The budget focused on unleashing corporate creativity and innovation to fuel economic growth and recovery, and focused on higher skills, higher wages and higher productivity. It invests massively in science and innovation: including substantial increases in R&D investments with the aim of growing from 0.7% to 1.1% of GDP by 2026/7 (higher than in Germany, the OECD and the USA) and to tap the possibility of pensions to invest directly in innovation areas with higher risk.

But it should have focused heavily on health as an asset to invest in, with long-term returns measured by bridging the gap in health inequalities, reducing demand on the health and care system, and reducing health and the well-being of the population with the associated increase in the workforce to increase productivity and ultimately economic growth.

While the budget emphasized “community leveling” with more money for local authorities, housing and schools, it could have invested specifically to reduce health inequalities in the hardest hit areas, as it recognized, for example, that 30% of the productivity gap was between the north and the rest of England is due to ill health.

In addition, given the growing recognition of the role employers could play in reducing the burden of disease in the health system by up to 20%, particularly in the areas of mental health, chronic and musculoskeletal disorders, there would have been a greater focus on supporting worker-led health interventions, such as mid-life health checks and healthy eating and exercise in the workplace (especially keeping the UK NHS and caregivers, the fifth largest workforce in the world, who can lead by example on the importance of healthy behavior).

While it measures what matters, current health system performance metrics are not sufficiently geared to incentivize prevention, and we are seeing a health system becoming increasingly unsustainable after a pandemic. We urgently need to realign incentives as part of broader systems change to link health to wealth and to address the 85% of factors that determine our health that are outside the formal health and care system.

The UK National Statistics Office’s Health Index is a good step in this direction and will help draw public debate and government policy attention to a comprehensive concept of health as an asset and a key indicator of success. It measures health as an asset in three areas: (1) healthy people who focus on health outcomes; (2) healthy living, which measures health-related behavioral risk factors; and (3) healthy places that capture broader social, environmental, and economic determinants of health.

Other indices, such as the UK’s Urban Health Index, show how stratifying data across different social and environmental indicators can give a better picture of how their environment is affecting their health. Global initiatives such as the Healthy Cities Partnership are already underway, such as the Vancouver Healthy Cities Data Dashboard launched in April 2021, which tracks progress through 23 health and wellbeing indicators and 12 shared goals.

But we need health data to develop the metrics that require transparent, consent-based, and secure data sharing to reassure the public. We need trustworthy systems to address citizens’ concerns about the use of their data, while enabling data sharing across the lifecycle across multiple sectors. This would accelerate our understanding of the causes of age-related poor health and identify preventive health strategies and therapies with potential to improve healthy life expectancy and level health.

Crucially, business has a much bigger role to play in the systemic changes needed to improve and improve health. The OECD examines the role of business in its Beyond GDP agenda, including its Center for Wellbeing, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunities (WISE), which focuses on generating new data and solutions to improve people’s well-being and reduce inequalities focused.

New initiatives such as the Business Framework for Health, launched in October with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and supported by Chris Whitty, UK Chief Medical Officer, aims to leverage data and develop metrics to Measure and promote positive contributions of companies to health in three areas: 1) Direct influence: Influence of the company on the health of the workforce 2. Secondary influence: Influence of the company on the health of products and services sold 3. The external influence of Corporations to the communities in which they operate and the wider environment / society. This is part of a longer term plan to incorporate “health” into ESG mandates and become “ESHG”.

Health was where the climate change agenda was 10 years ago, and now the time has come to channel more investment and innovation into health led by ESG mandates, as we do for climate change, and put them on one apply healthy life expectancy and social health.

As our leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26, we remind ourselves that a healthier life also means a greener life: fighting air pollution, active transportation and eating less meat are part of the One Health model, which is human health , Animal and planet connects. Let’s start investing in health, as happens in the environment. It’s time.


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