by Richard Stubbs, board member of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
What are the industries and sectors that spring to mind when people talk about Sheffield? Steel? Undoubtably. Manufacturing? Absolutely, now more than ever with the global success of the Advanced Manufacturing Park. Football? Sadly, probably not as much as we’d like these days, even if we are the sport’s spiritual home.
What about Health? And specifically, wellness and prevention? With the investment and interest currently around our health innovation capabilities it is plausible (and extremely desirable) that Sheffield could be seen in the future as a global capital of good health, wellbeing and longer lives.
And that would mean a virtuous cycle for our health and our wealth as a region. The connection between a region’s health and a region’s prosperity seems obvious, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep reminding ourselves of its importance.
As a generalisation the richer the society, the better their health. And vice versa. A recent report by the Northern Health Science Alliance highlighted that productivity is lower in the North than in the South (£4 gap in productivity per person per hour). And similarly, health is also worse in the North (life expectancy is on average two years lower).
Working people in the North are 39 per cent more likely to lose their job compared to the rest of England if they experience a spell of ill health. Long term health conditions lead to economic inactivity and the spiral continues. Conversely, if we improve the health of our Northern population, we would enjoy substantial economic gains.
And that is why it is so important that the North, and specifically Sheffield, invests in, and builds upon, our emerging status as a leader in the wellness and prevention sector.
The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, currently being constructed in the Olympic Legacy Park, will be an important calling card for the city’s ambition. But just as important will be the next investment that is built alongside it, and the one after that.
We need to be more productive as a region. And to do that we need to be healthier. As the costs of traditional NHS care continues to increase, more and more attention is rightly being placed on interventions that stop people being ill in the first place.
This means better population health, social prescribing, healthier and smarter towns and cities, more diverse travel choices, opening up our parks and public spaces, and getting to grips with nutrition.
Unsurprisingly, this a challenge for the majority of countries and governments, and therefore there is a lot of attention and funding being aimed at solutions that work. I work with many innovative start-ups, and so many of them see health and prevention as the Next Big Thing.
We want those high-tech jobs to come to Sheffield. And when I explain that we have the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine, the English Institute of Sport, and of course our soon-to-be-built AWRC, Sheffield starts to be seen as a competitor for their next office or even HQ. It is a great start.
And I’m excited about the next ten years, as health and not health care becomes the priority for the world. Sheffield has a chance to be leading the way. Our own health and wealth will improve if we are successful.
Richard Stubbs is CEO of the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network, and a Private Sector Board Member of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.
Pictures courtesy of the Sheffield Star