Responding to the government’s prevention green paper, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, said:

'With health inequalities in England widening and life expectancy improvements stalling, this green paper amounts to a missed opportunity. Perhaps unsurprisingly at a time of political uncertainty, the government has stepped back from the bold action required. But this should concern us all when ambitious whole-government action is urgently needed to tackle the root causes of ill health – including poverty and deprivation, poor housing, poor quality work, social isolation and poor quality environments.

'By its own admission the government states that this green paper only goes some way to delivering its goal of five extra years of healthy life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest. But if it is not in the remit of a government prevention strategy to do this, then where does the responsibility fall? Our analysis shows that if things continue as they are, it could take as long as 75 years – not 16 – to reach this goal.  

'Aspects of the paper are welcome, including the creation of a health index for England setting the population’s health on a par with GDP; the recognition of the need for a stronger focus on prevention across all areas of government policy; and the focus on joint working between the NHS and local government. However, with its emphasis on individual-level action, and with no mention of the necessary local government funding, the approach risks exacerbating rather than reducing health inequalities.

'Overall, the paper falls a long way short of the comprehensive shift in approach needed to create healthier lives for people in England. A healthy economy needs a healthy population to power it. The incoming Prime Minister will need to take stronger action if Britain is to have a prosperous future.'

Media contact

Susannah McIntyre
Susannah.McIntyre@health.org.uk
07388 118 004
0207 664 4647

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