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The building blocks of health, or how to build a thriving society

Health is our most precious asset. Good health and wellbeing enable people to reach their potential, drive economic growth, and foster stronger communities.

Our health is shaped by various factors in our environment, the building blocks of health. From quality housing to secure employment, from social connections to access to green spaces and clean air, they all influence our health and well-being. 

This is why we believe that improving people’s health is not just the Department of Health and Social Care’s job. Creating a society where everyone can thrive and lead a healthy life requires sustained efforts across all of government supported by a clear vision and leadership from the Prime Minister. 

A whole-government approach to health

Most – if not all – government departments have a role to play in building good health, even those that might not be first to mind. For example, transport policies can encourage active travel and reduce air pollution, which in return can positively impact health. 

Recognising and integrating health considerations across all departments is crucial for fostering good health and addressing health inequalities effectively.


We’re advocating for a whole-government approach to health. This would involve all departments maximising opportunities to improve health across the full range of their policy areas. 

While this sounds straightforward in theory, it's challenging in practice, especially at a time of limited resources and competing priorities. There's a growing consensus that improving health is a national imperative for individual well-being, economic prosperity, and the sustainability of public services. Past efforts by successive governments have seen mixed success due to insufficient focus on prevention, inadequate investment, and lack of accountability.

…and some solutions

In 2021, we published a paper addressing these challenges and suggesting various mechanisms to drive efforts across the whole of government. It is critical that any cross-government approach has the mechanisms in place that can sustain change over the long term, so that action doesn’t stall once the issue drops from the headlines. One focus of the current debate is what lessons can be learnt from the Climate Change Act 2008, which uses binding statutory targets (“net zero”) and an independent body (the Climate Change Committee) to review progress and policies, and to hold government to account. 

We have convened an Expert Panel to develop detailed recommendations for a “Bill of Health” – those mechanisms needed to create a long-term shift towards a preventative approach to health across government. The Panel’s final report is expected in autumn 2024. We’re also supporting the Get well soon Britain campaign, promoted by Health Equals, which also calls for the creation of a new Bill of Health.

Further reading

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