Has government grasped the full enormity of the country’s public health challenges? Health Foundation response to announcement of new Office for Health Promotion to drive improvement of nation’s health
29 March 2021
Responding to the Department of Health and Social Care’s announcement of a New Office for Health Promotion to drive improvement of nation’s health, Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s announcement signals the government’s intent to take a more joined up approach to tackling some of the major health issues facing the country. We particularly welcome the creation of a cross-government ministerial board to coordinate action across departments on the wider determinants of health and ‘level up’ inequalities.
'The test for the government will now be in the delivery of these proposals and whether it has grasped the full enormity and scale of the challenges ahead. The recognition of the critical role of Directors of Public Health is welcome but there is no indication that the historic cuts to local budgets will be restored. Nor did the recent budget make a long-term commitment to public health funding despite this year’s public health grant allocations representing a 24% cut in real terms per capita – equivalent to £1bn – compared to 2015/16.
'Today’s plans also fall short of creating the independent body which is urgently needed for parliament to scrutinise the government’s actions and ensure that these lead to tangible improvements in the nation's health.
'The pandemic makes it all more urgent that we prioritise keeping people healthy. The government faces a crucial window of opportunity in which to create a public health system equipped to take on the major health issues facing the country including rising obesity, a mental health crisis and a growing gap between the health of the richest and poorest.
'A strong public health system isn’t a luxury – beyond the obvious benefit to the individual, good health brings with it huge economic and social benefits that are vital to the country’s prosperity. The government has pledged to increase healthy life expectancy and narrow the gap between the richest and poorest, but it has a mountain to climb to reverse the current trends. On the basis of what we’ve heard today, we are still to get out of the foothills.'
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