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Loughborough research to assess the economic impact of a ‘healthy nation’

Loughborough University academics have secured funding for a project that aims to inform policy makers of the true cost of creating a ‘healthy nation’.

The Health Foundation – an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK – has granted £200,000 to a study that looks to identify the variations in the mental and physical health of individuals that affect economic and social outcomes.The project titled Life course impacts of health status on social and economic outcomes and transitions, will be led by Professor of Economics Paul Downward, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, and Dr Simona Rasciute from the School of Business and Economics, with the help of colleagues within the Schools as well as the Department of Social Sciences.

The two-year longitudinal study, which starts next month, will analyse the changes of health in individuals, their family and their peers and look at how this influences their lifestyle.

Data will be drawn from secondary sources including the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Survey, alongside focus groups to better understand the patterns revealed in the quantitative data.

The results of the study hope to ultimately discover how a person’s health can affect their economic outcomes – such as their job satisfaction, income and perspective on their own financial situation – and also their social outcomes, for example their relationship with their partner and perceptions of their own neighbourhood.

The findings may then help policy-makers, from areas such as the NHS and the Government, implement future strategies.

Lead researcher, Professor Paul Downward commented: “Dr Rasciute and I have spent the last few years exploring the determinants of health, well-being and social capital, primarily focusing on the role that sports, physical activity, associational behaviour and peers play.

“We are very grateful to the Health Foundation for funding our proposed research.

“An important aspect of the work will be to explore how the health of members of the household transfers to the outcomes of other members. Mapping these impacts across a range of outcomes will be important for us in working with the Health Foundation and other policy stakeholders to prioritise and shape policy initiatives associated with improvements in Health.

“An important feature of this aspect of the research will be to work with Professor Donald Hirsh from the Centre of Research in Social Policy and Dr Kris Clements from the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine to maximise these impacts.”

Dr Simona Rasciute added: “We are very excited about this research opportunity and hope that the outcomes of the project will help to map the portfolio of impacts that health has, as an asset, on individuals’ outcomes to help health, social and economic policy agencies develop more integrated care interventions.”

The research project is one of six that has been allocated funding from the Health Foundation as part of its Social and Economic Value of Health programme.

Jo Bibby, Director of Strategy at the Health Foundation, said: “Our wellbeing and health affects every aspect of our lives, from our work to our family and social life. A healthy population is necessary for a flourishing society.

“Through this work we want to demonstrate the value that good health contributes to an individual’s social and economic outcomes, in order to encourage greater investment in strategies that maintain people’s health throughout their lives.”

To find out more about the research visit the Health Foundation’s projects page here.