The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Public Health Wales’ Policy, Research and International Development (PRID) Directorate as a WHO Collaborating Centre (CC) on ‘Investment for Health and Wellbeing’. Over the years, Public Health Wales has taken a leading role on supporting investment in people’s health and wellbeing, driving sustainable development and promoting prosperity for all in Wales and beyond. This is the first WHO CC in this area of expertise in the world. It joins a network of over 800 collaborating centres based in 80 countries globally.
By Dr Mariana Dyakova and Prof Mark A Bellis (Public Health Wales)
Public Health Wales is the national public health agency, aiming to achieve a healthier, happier, and fairer Wales. It provides professional independent advice and services to protect, improve, and promote health and wellbeing and to reduce health inequalities. The PRID Directorate works to ensure the organisation is a key player in research and global health, informing policy and practice, and improving the effectiveness, quality and efficiency of public health activities. The WHO CC designation builds on Public Health Wales’ long history of WHO collaboration, working closely with WHO Europe and the European Office for Investment for Health and Development in Venice.
WHO CC focus and opportunities
The WHO CC will support and facilitate investment for health and wellbeing as a driver and enabler of social, economic and environmental sustainability and prosperity for all. The designation involves a 4-year programme of work to develop, collect and share information on how best to invest in better health, reduce inequalities, and build stronger communities in Wales, Europe and worldwide. It also supports Wales to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development (1) and its world-leading national equivalent, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2); as well as the national strategy ‘Prosperity for All’ (3).
The WHO CC status brings opportunities for:
- knowledge, evidence and best practice sharing and learning;
- developing and applying innovative approaches and tools;
- expanding our networks and establishing new partnerships;
- technical cooperation and support;
- pooling resources and capacities;
- external income generation and international funding;
- advancing applied research to inform and influence policy and practice; and
- developing people, the organisation and a nation of global citizens.
Why investment for health and wellbeing?
There are growing health, inequality, economic and environmental challenges across the globe and the European Region. They require urgent and priority-focused investment to ensure sustainable development and prosperity for present and future generations. Governments can have a major impact on all factors influencing health and wellbeing, on the way people live and on their everyday choices. Working together with people and communities in a participatory way (whole-of-society approach) as well as across different governmental sectors and levels (whole-of-government approach) is essential to inform, develop and implement successful policies that are conducive to health and wellbeing, as well as to sustainable inclusive economic growth, security and peace.
An overarching Framework for investment for health and sustainable development (figure 1, (4)) has been developed, recognising the complex reciprocal multi-sectoral multi-level relation between investing in health and achieving sustainable development. Based on the most recent European and Welsh evidence (4, 5), 12 key public health policies for priority investment have been identified. All of them address areas of high health, social, economic and environmental burden and costs and demonstrate strong Social Return on Investment (SROI) (6) so that they benefit inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.
WHO CC focus and opportunities
Three pathways have been identified (4) through which investment for health and wellbeing drives (directly through the health sector) and enables (indirectly through other sectors) sustainable and inclusive economic growth:
- The health and security pathway through increasing life expectancy, improving quality of life, building human capital, enhancing labour productivity, and ensuring national and global health security;
- The social and equity pathway through reducing the health gap along the social gradient and gender, building social capital, creating political stability, and achieving employment equity for women, young people and the poorest; and
- The economic and innovation pathway through direct, indirect and induced economic effects, such as providing employment and decent jobs, building skills, establishing infrastructure, purchasing supplies and technologies, delivering communications, creating competitive medical services and technological innovations (especially “walking the talk” by the health sector) driving sustainable production and consumption.
In summary, there is strong evidence to support investing for health and wellbeing as a driver and enabler of economic, social and environmental sustainability. The interconnected nature of current challenges and solutions requires strong leadership, strategic and political commitment and new approaches through networking, collaboration, and citizen involvement at all policy and governance levels. The new WHO CC at Public Health Wales has taken a leading role in this area of work in collaboration with relevant partners worldwide. We are looking forward to inform and promote more sustainable policies, embrace the principles of human rights, equity and evidence-based interventions and help address the health and wellbeing needs of current and future generations.
- Transforming our World. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New York: United Nations; 2015 (A/RES/70/1; https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/21252030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development%20web.pdf) [accessed 08/03/2018].
- Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. In: legislation.gov.uk [website]. Richmond: The National Archives; 2015 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/anaw/2015/2/contents) [accessed 08/03/2018].
- Welsh Government (2017) Prosperity for All: the national strategy. (http://gov.wales/docs/strategies/170919-prosperity-for-all-en.pdf) [accessed 08/03/2018]
- Dyakova M, Hamelmann C, Bellis MA, Besnier E, Grey CNB, Ashton K et al. Investment for health and wellbeing: a review of the social return on investment from public health policies to support implementing the Sustainable Development Goals by building on Health 2020. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2017 (Health Evidence Network (HEN) synthesis report 51).
- Dyakova M, Knight T, Price S. Making a difference: investing in sustainable health and well-being for the people of Wales. Cardiff: Public Health Wales NHS Trust; 2016 (http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/documents/888/PHW%20Making%20a%20difference%20ES%28Web%5F2%29.pdf) [accessed 08/03/2018].
- Hamelmann C, Turatto F, Then V, Dyakova M. Social return on investment: accounting for value in the context of implementing Health 2020 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2017 (Investment for Health and Development Discussion Paper).