Richard Stubbs is a board member for the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), CEO of the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (YHAHSN) and Vice-Chair of the national AHSN Network

The impact of COVID-19 on the economy has been profound, with GDP in January 2021 9 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels. The direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the population has also been clear, with more than 150,000 people tragically dying as a result.
The prevalence and impact of the inequalities which exist within society have also been thrown into sharp focus throughout the pandemic.
Does health have an impact on the economy, and vice versa, does the economy have an impact on health? The answer is undoubtedly yes. The connection between health and wealth is cyclic – if we rebuild the economy, we improve the health of the population and present employment opportunities. If we tackle health inequalities people can access new opportunities and further invest in the economy as they prioritise health and wellbeing. Those who have greater opportunities and healthier lives will reinvest back into leisure and the region.
Over the months and years ahead there’s a real opportunity to embed a deeper focus on health across all sectors and parts of society. Not only will this improve wellbeing and personal prosperity , it will help drive us out of the economic challenges we currently face as a society. Businesses of all sizes have an increasingly important role to play in this agenda.
Generally, when we think about health and the NHS we think of a reactive service we only engage with when we’re ill. But proactively engaging and managing health and wellbeing as individuals, employers and businesses is key to rebuilding and growing our economy and society.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, we have an increasing productivity challenge, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. However, if we reduced the number of working aged people with long-term health conditions by just 10 per cent, we would decrease rates of economic inactivity by 30 per cent. In contrast, a 1 per cent fall in employment has the potential to increase the prevalence of chronic illness by 2 per cent.
Business leaders should be more aware of their role in improving the region’s health and the economy and invest in their workforce, including health and wellbeing, offering greater skills and training, and supporting flexible working.
Leaders should also understand the business case for their individual business and how investing in their workforce will have a positive impact on their productivity in the long run: we know a healthy and happy population is productive and prosperous and vice versa.
We want a more productive, more prosperous, and healthier region, and we shouldn’t underestimate the role of business in achieving this. Recognising the region’s skills gaps now and in the future, diversifying our offering for employees and customers, investing in jobs, and focusing on workforce wellbeing all link back to the cycle of health and wealth.
As part of the region’s Renewal Action Plan (RAP), The Sheffield City Region Growth Hub provides support to businesses of all sectors and sizes to identify challenges, growth areas, and working with regional public and private sector partners, to develop a specialist framework of support.

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