Businesses urged to embrace healthy living agenda

Business for Health is a new business-led coalition which aims to increase the number of years older people live in good health, with work playing a central role.

older woman in her 50's discussing her career options


A business-led coalition has been launched to focus on what employers can do to advance the health of the nation and will focus first on creating an index that will help businesses measure their progress on embedding well being.

Business for Health is run by Longevity International – the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity – in association with MAD World Summit. It is supported by cross-party political leaders, the third sector, the broader business community and aims to help achieve the Government’s objective of five extra years of healthy life expectancy while minimising health inequalities and to enhance people’s resilience as we emerge from Covid. 

Andy Briggs, CEO of insurers Phoenix Group, co-chair of the Longevity Council and Trade Ambassador for Healthy Ageing in the Department of International Trade, said that healthy life expectancy had not kept up with longevity, but that the UK’s growth and productivity, vital after Covid, depended on having a healthy workforce.

He said the UK now has more people over 65 than under five so it needs to invert its health focus and do more for its ageing population. This also makes business sense since older people are projected to make up the majority of UK consumers and many have large amounts of savings. That makes older workers invaluable in the workplace as they understand better the kind of products that appeal to their peer group. Briggs said people often associate innovation with millennials, but there is a burgeoning market for products aimed at older people.

Andy McClure from AXA Health said health prevention is vital for businesses’ bottom line. Businesses with a healthier, happier workforce grow faster, he said, adding that focusing on well being and not just healthcare benefits is important. It also has a wider social impact which gives employers a chance to have a positive impact on the world. “At a time like this that is an amazing opportunity,” he said.

Claire Farrow, Director of Make a Difference, which is responsible for the MAD World Summit, said Covid-19 had been a catalyst for employers to focus on mental health and had shown how much more needs to be done to tackle health inequalities. “Businesses need to step up,” she said. “Mental health is part of the Covid recovery.” She called for senior managers to buy into the health agenda and take action rather than just talk about it.  “The business case has been made. What is stopping them?” she asked. She called on leaders to talk openly about the business benefits and to have honest conversations about what was preventing them from embracing the health agenda. 

She said businesses also needed to shift the narrative on well being, use language that is more aspirational and embed inclusive, preventive well being practices rather than just focusing on the low-hanging fruit. That meant looking at things like job design and management capability.

More employers needed to be part of the conversation, she added. John Godfrey, Director of Corporate Affairs at Legal & General, said health was everyone’s business. He outlined how the well being index would work and how Business for Health would work with a range of business, academics and others to provide an open access network to share best practice and he encouraged more employers to get on board.

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said employers would benefit from having an age diverse workforce and retaining the experience of older workers. She called on employers to look at the data showing the advantages of intergenerational teams and said they should think about how the language and images they used in job adverts might put off some older candidates. 

In a Q & A at the end of the launch event – which coincides with Longevity Week – there was a discussion about the importance of employers gathering data around well being, including well being surveys, engagement surveys and statistics on absenteeism and retention. Some are also embedding well being into their KPIs for line manager appraisals.

*Employers who want to join Business for Health should contact Longevity International

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