It cannot be overemphasised that improving the health of the population will not be achieved without a whole-system approach to health. Integrated healthcare delivery and health system strengthening are evidence-based approaches that have improved population health in varying degrees. They enable sustainability and identify other factors that impinge on the improvement of health outcomes
Director, Strategic Partnerships
Why Health in All Policies Is a Necessity?
One may ask, what do I mean by “health-in-all policies,” and why is it necessary?
“Health in All Policies is an approach to public policies across sectors that systematically takes into account the health implications of decisions, seeks synergies, and avoids harmful health impacts, in order to improve population health and health equity”.
If we agree that human beings are the most important asset in any country and that investment in human resources improves productivity, then achieving good health for a population is a necessity. For years it has been stated by many health professionals that health needs to be seen as an investment rather than a cost; but the challenge is determining the return on investment. For investing in health emphasises the need for investment in prevention and early diagnosis, the benefits of which are realised in the longer term. Having health in all policies supports and promotes the health and well-being of the individual. Perhaps more importantly, it further enables a cross-sectoral approach to addressing factors that can affect health, such as lack of housing, electricity, food security and poverty. Other key factors include air pollution, which has an impact on health.
Mental health issues impose an enormous disease burden on societies across the world. Depression alone affects 350 million people globally and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated.
Every sector, be it energy, housing or agriculture need human resources to operate and deliver results. Ensuring that people are healthy and fit for work requires prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions as well as a functional and effective primary care system. Increasingly, children and youth are developing health issues, and healthy ageing is becoming a challenge. These require interventions through schools and local communities.
There is now globally a long list of health issues that can affect population health. These range from global health security to communicable and non-communicable diseases, which includes mental health, neglected tropical diseases and the list goes on………
The point is, tackling health issues needs be done in its broadest sense to address population health. This requires all sectors working together to achieve this. It cannot be overemphasised that improving the health of the population will not be achieved without a whole-system approach to health. Integrated healthcare delivery and health system strengthening are evidence-based approaches that have improved population health in varying degrees. They enable sustainability and identify other factors that impinge on the improvement of health outcomes.
The benefits of health in all policies include enabling a healthier and more productive population; earlier diagnosis and treatment which may reduce premature deaths; and increased public awareness of health and health promotion.
The World Bank’s new Human Capital Index has for the first time determined that investment in health and education are key factors behind the economic growth and poverty reduction rates in several countries in the world.
The rankings, based on health, education and survivability measures, assessed the future productivity and earnings potential for citizens of 157 of the World Bank’s member nations, and ultimately those countries’ potential economic growth. It found that on average 56 percent of children born today will forego more than half their potential lifetime earnings because governments were not investing adequately to ensure their people are healthy, educated and ready for an evolving workplace. One solution is to institute health in all policies, so all national initiatives include a pre-health impact assessment.
In 1969, Finland had the second highest cardiovascular mortality in the world — 643 of 100,000 men aged 35 to 64 annually. The numbers were so striking, so high compared to the rest of the world, that the public health authorities couldn’t help but take note. Finland’s death rates from coronary heart disease were two or even three times those of other European countries and Japan. Today, the rate is one tenth of that.
Health monitoring, reducing smoking and improving dietary habits have had a huge impact on their non-communicable disease burden. The Finnish educational system provides health education, physical activity and free healthy school meals. Six years ago, one in every five-year-old children was overweight, but through health interventions in schools, the proportion of five-year-olds who are overweight has been halved. The agricultural sector promotes the production of healthier foods, and the Ministry of Finance carries excise duties on soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco. The implementation of health in all policies has produced good results for Finland.
Developing an implementation plan for increasing access to healthcare for the population involves prevention and health promotion initiatives, which cannot be achieved by the ministries of health alone. In conclusion, I reiterate that ensuring health in all policies, and successfully implementing the policies, will contribute to the economic advancement of any given country.