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Healthy, working economies: Improving the health and wellbeing of the working age population locally

The third white paper of the Health at Work Policy Unit

The coalition government has overseen a number of measures to move responsibility for aspects of health and social care and for economic growth away from Whitehall, to localities across England. These measures have included the introduction of Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs), and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), moving public health functions into local authorities, and the creation of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs). These changes present considerable potential to influence improvements in the health of the working age population through greater joined up activity at a local level.

This paper seeks to identify to what extent these policy changes are influencing the health of the working age population – both the employed and the unemployed. We ask: are national policymakers encouraging and supporting local action strongly enough on this issue, and are local actors recognising the importance of these issues and driving action? It highlights some good practice examples where policy levers have been used effectively by local actors to achieve improved workforce health, and it also identifies what the main barriers are to this issue being more highly prioritised and dealt with in a joined up way locally. It makes a number of recommendations addressed to both national and local policymakers to suggest how policy could more effectively encourage joined up action on workforce health locally.

This paper has been informed by a number of site visits to different areas across England, discussions with a range of representatives from those areas (including representatives of CCGs, HWBs, local authorities, LEPs and the wider business community) and a number of expert interviews.