“The continued work of the APPG in seeking ways to improve the health of the nation and reduce health inequalities is so important to us all – now more than ever,” says Yvonne Sonsino, Global Co-Leader, Next Gen at Mercer.

One of the recommendations, a Business Coalition for a Healthier Nation, is now in the process of being set up, with leaders from insurance, banking and other sectors, and with the support of central government. The Coalition recognises that shaping the recovery and charting a new course for growth ahead will require greater collaboration between businesses, academia, government institutions and citizens themselves.

It places preventative health firmly at the centre to build up health and economic resilience. Indeed, arguably the even bigger crisis looming is the chronic disease “epidemic” – delays in cancer diagnosis and backlogs of cases have all increased with people fearful of seeing doctors and going to hospitals, only adding to the significant burden that existed before the pandemic. The recent OpenSafely study showed that people with obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension were much more likely to die from Covid-19, all mostly preventable diseases linked to social inequalities too.

A recent McKinsey report estimates that the cost of ill health was about 15% of global real GDP in 2017, and that the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions will reduce global GDP by 3 to 8 % in 2020, concluding: “Long-term prevention and health promotion, which encompasses more than 70% of the benefits we identified, cannot simply be left to healthcare providers or healthcare systems. It is quite literally everybody’s business.”

In response, the Business Coalition is proposing, amongst other things, to develop a risk management framework for health and corresponding index to measure business contributions to health. It recognises the link between human health and planetary health too. As Colin Matthews, Chairman of EDF Energy, said: “There’ll be no healthy economy without a healthy population and a healthy planet.”

Indeed, health is where the climate change agenda was 10 years ago. Businesses involved in the Coalition argue we should be guiding investment and innovation decisions by Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) mandates like we do for climate change, applying them to healthy life expectancy and societal health; institutional investors should be thinking about the stranded asset risk of things that cause health risks, and businesses should report on health risks like they are doing increasingly on climate issues. Crucially, Coalition leaders say we need to prioritise capital for large-scale, long-term, sustainable investment in preventative health.

Andy Briggs, CEO of Phoenix Group, Co-Chair of the UK Longevity Council, and founding member of the Coalition, says: “We need to show how to make sustainability absolutely core in all businesses.”