Relatively poor health in the north of England has a major impact on the area's economic performance, according to a report.
The Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) study said the government should try to improve the region's health as part of its industrial strategy.
Life expectancy and productivity is lower in the North than in the rest of England, it stated.
But the government said it had "a strong track record" on health.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the government's ambition was "to help people live longer, healthier lives, regardless of where they live.
The NHSA commissioned universities in Newcastle, Manchester, Lancaster, Liverpool, Sheffield and York to produce Health for Wealth - Building a Healthier Northern Powerhouse for UK Productivity.
It looks at the impact of health on productivity and the chances of improving it by "regional growth through health improvement".
It called for an increase in NHS funding in the area to be spent on prevention services and health science research.
- Productivity is lower in the north
- A key reason is that health is also worse in the north
- Improving health in the north would lead to substantial economic gains.
Source: Health for Wealth
The Department of Health said: "Robust government action has led to a fall in rates of smoking, and our world-leading childhood obesity plan promotes ways to keep children healthy from an early age."
It was increasing NHS funding by an average of 3.4% annually and was investing £16bn in councils' public health services, it added.
But the report said there are "deep-rooted and persistent regional inequalities" in health with people in the North "consistently found" to be less healthy than those in the South".
Life expectancy is two years lower in the North than in the rest of England and there is a "well-known productivity gap" of £4 per person, per hour, it said.
The North generated more than £327bn to the UK economy in production of goods and services in 2015, about 20% of the total, although it has 25% of the UK population, the report said.
Average annual earnings are more than 10% lower than the rest of England.
The need for a "Northern Powerhouse" was outlined by George Osborne, the then-Chancellor, in a speech in 2014.
It planned to bring the North's population of about 16 million people into a force to rival London and the South East.