Health Secretary Frank Dobson, speaking to leaders of Health Action Zones, made it clear that the strategy is to drive up the health standards of poorer people at a faster rate than the general population. There are widespread health inequalities across the country. Heart attacks and strokes disable and kill East Londoners at a relatively young age. Being born in the worst off areas of Manchester means a child growing up many times more at risk of accidents than in more prosperous areas.
As well as addressing health issues, the strategy embraces improvement to the environment, transport, education and employment as well as partnership at the local level. Joined-up policies in action zones and elsewhere are changing the whole way of doing things.
Examples of work in progress in action zones includes a nutrition initiative to address ill health and premature mortality in children in South London and food co-operatives, health promotion schools and better access to specialist cardiovascular services in East London.