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ICSs must harness local businesses to enable true population health

There is a crucial role for private businesses to play in the health and wellbeing of local populations, given that the private sector employs more than 80 per cent of working adults, and businesses shape outcomes in their local area.
  • Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs) must collaborate with local businesses in order to have meaningful a influence on employee health, maximise their community impact and enrich local health data records for improved and more inclusive insight.
  • Practical guidance is necessary to inform the relationship between businesses and ICPs, the PPP PHM Collaboration Framework provides a helpful tool for ICSs and businesses to partner most effectively.

A new report by Public Policy Projects (PPP), Population Health in Business, explores the significant impact that businesses can have in promoting positive employee and community health outcomes, and proposes a series of policy recommendations aimed at strengthening partnerships between businesses and integrated care systems (ICSs) to create healthier and more equitable communities.

Based on insights generated during three roundtable events in the first half of 2023, chaired by Professor Donna Hall, Chair of the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and the New Local Government Network, the report underscores the significance of local businesses as valuable partners for ICSs, given their impact on employee and community health. With approximately 82 per cent of the UK workforce employed in the private sector, businesses have a central role to play in improving health and reducing prevailing health inequalities among employees. By aligning themselves with the goals of their local ICS, businesses can positively influence employee and community health outcomes.

The report highlights the various ways in which businesses can impact employee health, including working conditions, adequate pay, quality workplace relationships, reduced work-related stress, health and wellbeing schemes, mental health support, and the fostering of a positive workplace culture. Prioritising employee health is not only a moral obligation, but should also be an economic one, as good employee health reduces economic activity, boosts productivity, improves staff retention and recruitment, and attracts investment.

In addition, PPP’s report emphasises the positive impact businesses can have on the broader health of their community by supporting local economies, implementing inclusive recruitment practices, partnering with community organisations, investing in community development, implementing local procurement strategies, advocating for health equity, and assisting ICSs in delivering public health services and initiatives. Healthy, strong and vibrant communities offer numerous benefits to businesses, including improved workforce productivity, reputational gain, and access to better talent.

To enable effective collaboration between businesses and ICSs, the report highlights the importance of data sharing. Businesses possess valuable health-relevant data that can contribute to health management strategies. By sharing this data with local ICSs, businesses can help create a more comprehensive picture of individual and population health, fill gaps in routine data, and enable better care and the reduction of health inequalities.

To facilitate collaboration and ensure that businesses activities are responsive to employee health needs and local health challenges, PPP has developed the PPP PHM Collaboration Matrix, a tool intended to guide businesses in evaluating their progress in improving employee health and wellbeing, contributing to community health, and aligning with local population health management goals and strategies.

Commenting on the report, Professor Donna Hall CBE said:

“This report by Public Policy Projects uncovers the links between business, communities, health and wellness, the significant role businesses can play in determining and improving population health, and the necessity of public-private collaboration for making meaningful change.

“When it comes to improving healthy life expectancy and reducing health inequalities, inter-organisational and cross-sectoral collaboration is of utmost importance. Incorporating businesses as genuine health partners requires a bold shift in culture from seeing businesses as ‘consultees’ to seeing them as people who can help to shape public health responses in local areas through targeting investment and support via their employees and the communities in which they live.”

Recommendations from the report include:

  1. Businesses should identify the key health conditions and inequalities within their business and should share findings with their local ICS.
  2. Health equity considerations should be incorporated into corporate decision making at every level.
  3. Employee health and wellbeing strategies should target those at higher risk of health inequalities, particularly those at lower occupational grades. Strategies should prioritise interventions that help employees easily access supported linked to improved social determinants of health and should extend to contracted employees where possible.
  4. DHSC should seek to develop guidance for businesses to support local health outcomes through recruitment, procurement and outreach. The guidance should provide a clear idea of the relationship between various social determinants of health and business practices.
  5. ICSs, local authorities, central government and businesses should explore opportunities to utilise ICPs as a forum for private, public and third sector stakeholders in a local area to communicate, establish shared priorities and create plans of action.
  6. NHS health records should be enriched with health-relevant data collected by businesses. This will help to complete patient records and inform more effective and comprehensive population health management strategies.
  7. ICSs should seek to collaborate with businesses to deliver public health services – such as hosting a pop-up diagnostic centre within a place of business. In these instances, health systems can benefit from the familiarity, proximity and trust that employers may have with their employees.

The full report can be accessed here.

About Public Policy Projects   

PPP is an organisation operating at the heart of health and life sciences policy delivery. We bring together senior leaders and practitioners in the public and private health and life sciences sectors to discuss and identify realistic solutions to the most pressing issues relating to the delivery of healthcare services.

Our independent research, events, and written reports are the result of effective collaboration between the public and private sectors.

We help businesses to grow their profile within the NHS and wider public sector. In turn, we support public sector leaders and organisations with practical recommendations on implementing policy to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for local populations.

Media Enquires  

For further information, to receive a copy of the report, or to request interviews, please contact:

Mary Brown, Policy Lead and author of the report, Public Policy Projects, 

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