Addressing health inequalities through doing more of “what works” needs real whole-system thinking. The big picture has been painted for us vividly – one in three premature deaths is attributable to socioeconomic inequality. Is this really 2020?
RoSPA advocates utilising the workplace as a conduit for public health messages, for two primary reasons. Firstly, occupational health and safety practice in the UK is second-to-none, and we know that organisations can leverage this to have a positive impact on the health and safety challenges we face outside of work (in our homes and during leisure time) every day. Secondly, all employers need to sit up and take notice of what happens beyond their workplace thresholds, because it has a direct impact on their productivity, staff morale, and the bottom line. For example, 600 people leave the workplace every day to care for others, some as a consequence of accidents which we all know could have been prevented. So, the need for a focus on the health of the wider population in order to reduce the waste of our human capital, here in the UK and indeed the wider world, is urgent.
RoSPA’s response to the recent ONS consultation
on an indicator-based approach to measuring human capital supported the use of a lifetime acquisition model, which recognises that skills, knowledge and experience are gained by a person from birth to death, not just during the ages at which they work.
This helps us to think about “people” holistically, in a sustainability context – in the same way that we now recognise how different, small inputs can affect the environment, such as buying a plastic bag or taking a flight, we can start to think about how preventative actions throughout a person’s lifespan can lead to a sustainable working life.
Our Safe and active at all ages
strategy for England outlines 25 human-capital-focused recommendations that reflect the importance of adopting a lifetime acquisition model approach to accident and ill-health prevention, and “reads across” to other issues on the public health agenda based on indicators from the Public Health Outcomes Framework. These recommendations can be extrapolated across the UK, Europe and wider world.
The power of prevention is just waiting to be unleashed, to support people to have fulfilled and fulfilling lives; it is difficult to be patient when the evidence is so strong. There will be a need for funding and political commitment, so the ability to think “whole person, whole life” and “whole system” is imperative.
One of the major obstacles we face is language. Notwithstanding the funding issue, communication across disciplines within and outside public health has the potential to be a barrier. Health literacy is already a challenge in the world of OSH, and if we are to use the workplace as a conduit for “whole life course” messages, a common language is essential. Another question we are often asked at RoSPA is how do we reach the hard to reach? I heard this question flipped recently, and am currently reflecting on how we make ourselves more accessible. Something we all need to consider?
Freedom from harm is an important goal for society. We all have a role to play… accidents quite simply don’t have to happen.
Dr Karen McDonnell, occupational safety and health adviser
Read our national strategy here.
Posted: 1/29/2020 3:07:00 PM