Health and Social and Human Capital
Human capital and social capital are known to have an impact on health and well-being. Evidence from Europe suggests that policy interventions targeted at improving individual social capital can directly improve individual health and contribute to community social capital, reinforcing the beneficial role of individual social capital.
Definitions of human capital encompass the notion that there are investments in people such as education, training or health, and that these investments increase an individual’s productivity. Human capital is the value of individuals’ skills, knowledge, abilities, social attributes, personality and health attributes. These factors enable individuals to work, and therefore produce something of economic value. It is measured as the sum of the total potential future earnings of everyone in the labour market. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) produces human capital estimates for the UK.
Harvard University has produced a summary of how to boost human capital and the factors that are important, including: education; vocational training; a climate of creativity; and infrastructure. In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has published widely on human capital. The CIPD technical report on human capital theory makes the case for investment in people as individuals and from the organisational level, and provides a series of recommendations for improving human capital including: formal training; mentoring; coaching; tracking mood and productivity; and talent management to retain human capital within an organisation or location.
Social capital is the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. Social capital arises from the human capacity to consider others, to think and act generously and co-operatively. There are three core aspects to social capital: social relationships; the quality of relationships and shared understanding. The ONS produces findings on social capital in the UK.
A systematic review has presented strong evidence to suggest that people with a lower socio-economic status generally have lower levels of social capital, and that lack of social capital is related to socioeconomic inequalities in health. Further, that social capital between close relations or tight-knit communities can buffer some of the negative effects of low socio-economic status on health.
Health literacy is a key feature of social capital. It is the social resources needed for individuals and communities to access, understand, appraise and use information and services to make decisions about health. Health literacy empowers people to make positive choices and is an enabler that supports the promotion of equity by improving people’s access to health information, and their capacity to use it effectively. Digital health advances have the potential to help increase access, decrease healthcare system costs and improve health outcomes. However, technology solutions to digital health literacy have the potential to both promote health literacy and be a barrier. Also, evidence on how various aspects of social capital affect different health outcomes for different actors remains unclear, and there is limited literature on the health benefits of social capital interventions.
Driving Prosperity for All through Investing for Health and Well-being: An Evidence Informed Guide for Cross-sector Investment
This guide by Public Health Wales suggests policy options for priority investment in Wales, based on the best available Welsh and European evidence. The policy options address areas of high burden and costs, as well as demonstrating co-benefits (returns) to the economy, society and the environment, including investing in quality early education and care, life-long learning opportunities and job training and supporting adult learning and health literacy. The guide can be used by policy- and decision-makers across national and local government, the health and social care service, and public bodies in all other sectors in Wales.
How to Make the Case for Sustainable Investment in Well-being and Health Equity: A Practical Guide
This practical guide by Public Health Wales is a tool to improve governance, investment and accountability for health and equity. The guide is intended to help the development of evidence-informed, context-tailored advocacy reports and other relevant documents and tools, enabling healthy policy- and decision-making across different sectors, levels of government and country settings. It aims to prevent disinvestment in health, increase investment in prevention (public health), and mainstream cross-sectoral investment to address the wider determinants of health and equity.
Placing Health Equity at The Heart of the COVID-19 Sustainable Response and Recovery: Building Prosperous Lives for All in Wales
This report by Public Health Wales places health equity at the heart of a sustainable response and recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic and explores the impacts of educational disruption, use of digital technology and social media, and volunteering in Wales.
Participation as a Driver of Health Equity
This report by the WHO Regional Office for Europe sets out that the promotion of social participatory systems can be an efficient formula for reducing inequities in health.
Making the Difference: Tackling Health Inequalities in Wales
This short paper by the Welsh Confederation outlines ideas on ways of working that would ensure collective impact in addressing health inequalities, including approaches that prioritise the value of social connectedness alongside health.
Tackling Loneliness in Wales Through the Pandemic and Beyond: Stakeholders’ Ideas for Action
This report by The Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) sets out five areas of action for tackling loneliness, with a focus on technology, the role of communities, the experience of vulnerable groups, managing the transition from COVID-19, and improving collaboration and collective ways of working.
Supporting the Welsh Lifelong Learning System
This report by the Wales Centre for Public Policy sets out the benefits of adopting an all-age lifelong learning strategy. The report draws attention to how lifelong learning and skills acquisition can help find solutions which will aid the economy and the well-being of Welsh residents and suggests using learning to promote a preventative approach to health.
Building Better Futures: Toolkit
This toolkit provides practical tools to help stretch the shared imagination about what might be possible in the future, and to support communities to identify a preferred future and to make specific plans to work towards that future. The toolkit was developed through a pilot community foresight exercise with voluntary and community groups across three different communities in Wales.
Digital Health Literacy: How New Skills Can Help Improve Health, Equity and Sustainability
This policy précis by EuroHealthNet explores digital health literacy and what it means for health equity. It also looks at promising practices from our members on the ground and how further progress can be made across Europe.