Headlines: June 6th, 2000

The Health Development Agency has been launched with a 10m pounds budget to provide the evidence on which the Government can base its strategies for reducing health inequalities. It will also give frontline staff the most up to date information on which they can base their work. The agency will have a crucial role in tackling ill health due to poverty and filling in the gaps in knowledge of what really works to improve health.The HDA agenda includes looking at projects that reach people who find it difficult to access services. Examples are work in pubs and clubs, encouraging men to use services, and promoting consumption of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. It will also look at good practice in local communities and share it with a wide range of professionals and organisations. The evidence of what works will be incorporated into guidelines which will be followed through by ensuring that health staff including community nurses, teachers and social workers, receive the necessary skills and training.

This is the first instance of a co-ordinating body being set up to pull together learning from disparate area based initiatives. In the other key area projects such as education, employment and social exclusion, co-ordination is either given to a lead Minister or carried out within a department. The agency will be closely watched to see if it performs any better than the more traditional approaches to co-ordination