- For us to be healthy, the building blocks of good health need to be in place in our communities – things like decent homes, good schools, and sound business practices. When these building blocks of health are weak or missing, our health can suffer; for example, when businesses promote unhealthy products like alcohol and junk food.
- Recent governments have had bold ambitions to improve health and reduce inequalities but have often shied away from the necessary population-level policy action required. National approaches have instead focused on supporting individuals to change their behaviour rather than creating healthy places for everyone.
- In this gap, local authorities have continued to lead local efforts to improve health and tackle inequalities driven by risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food.
- This briefing aims to support local authorities in England to work across their teams and address these risk factors. We do this by setting out a framework for population-level actions, including examples of approaches taken by different councils and linking to relevant legislation
Tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food are the three leading causes of preventable death and ill health in England and key drivers of health inequalities.
The government has set out bold ambitions to improve health and reduce inequalities, with a goal to increase healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035 and cut differences between communities. Yet this target is set to be missed by decades, and successive governments have shied away from the coordinated action required across government to create healthy places and the robust national policy measures specifically needed on alcohol and unhealthy food. In this gap, local authorities have continued to lead local efforts to improve health and tackle inequalities driven by these risk factors.
This briefing aims to support local authorities in England to maximise their local scope for action to improve health and tackle inequalities by addressing tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food.
In it, we set out the scale of health impacts associated with these risk factors, outline the roles of national and local government in addressing these challenges and introduce a framework to support local authorities to take ambitious population-level action. To support the framework’s implementation, we include examples of approaches taken by different councils and identify relevant supporting legislation.
As well as downloading the full briefing above, you can also download a snapshot of the framework for use as a handout or poster, or a graphic for use in presentations.
Cite this publication
McGeoch L, Ewbank L, Dun-Campbell K, Burale H, Mulrenan C, Briggs A. Addressing the leading risk factors for ill health – a framework for local government action. The Health Foundation; 2023 (https://doi.org/10.37829/HF-2023-HL03).