Greater support for public health professionals could reap huge economic benefits

Millions of people in the public health workforce could help reduce ill health in the UK, new report finds The Royal Society for Public Health has today published a new report calling for greater collective support for the millions of people in the UK workforce that are positively contributing to the nation’s health. The report argues that there are up to 1.5 million people working across a huge range of occupations who, with the right training and support, have the potential to help produce better health outcomes, reduce pressure on the NHS and grow the economy.

Occupations in the public health workforce include allied health professionals, sports and fitness trainers, town and country planners, emergency services, pest control workers, social care and cleaning, hygiene operatives and more.

These are occupations that are not considered part of the specialist workforce but have the potential to have a positive impact on the health of the public.

The report, The Unusual Suspects: Unlocking the Potential of the Wider Public Health Workforce has four headline recommendations aimed at the UK and devolved nation governments and health sector which call for:

  • The UK and devolved nation governments developing a cross-sector national strategy
  • The sector and relevant government departments thinking collectively about how to resource, upskill and empower the workforce to maximise their impact
  • Better recognition for professionals in the sector recognised as contributing to improved health and prevention
  • Clearer routes into the sector and ways to develop and be recognised for its expertise in public health.

A 2023 RSPH survey found significant support for the sector, with 82 percent of the public saying that they are crucial to safeguarding the nation’s health and 83 percent agreeing that there should be a greater focus on tackling the causes of poor health.

William Roberts the CEO of the RSPH, commented: “Health inequalities are continuing to cut lives short across the UK. This is causing enormous suffering and harming the economy through increasing numbers of people unable to work due to ill-health. Reversing the deeply alarming trend of worsening health outcomes is going to need a whole workforce approach.

“Millions of people have the chance to positively contribute to the nation’s health through their everyday jobs. The recommendations in this report set out a clear, realistic and actionable route for Government and the sector to make the most of it. If we want to build a healthier and more productive future, it starts with an army of people working to improve our health.”