Headlines: November 18th, 2003

Councils, the National Health Service and other public sector partners need to work closely to reduce health inequalities and cut preventable diseases, according to a joint response to the Wanless Review on ‘Securing Good Health For The Whole Population’.The recommendation has come from the Local Government Association, the Faculty of Public Health, the NHS Confederation, the UK Public Health Association and the Association of Public Health Observatories. Together they argue that public health is not the prerogative of the NHS or any other single part of the public sector.

They call for the setting of common health priorities for the whole public sector, gathering more information on the long-term effectiveness of public health prevention. They also want immediate action to tackle obvious health threats such as tobacco advertising and unhealthy school meals. The joint response calls, too, for more consideration to be given to the impact and benefits of structural reorganisations for public health workers and for greater investment in building public health capacity.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the Local Government Association, said promoting good health involved taking action on a wide range of issues, including combating poverty and improving the environment. Local councils, he said, had a particular responsibility to ensure that policies on housing, transport, leisure and the quality of life contributed to improving the health of the whole community.

“In addition, councils should use their new scrutiny powers over health to work closely with the NHS and other partners on local strategies to reflect the high priority of public health, ” he added.

The president of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor SiĆ¢n Griffiths, said that the response to the Wanless Review was a once in a generation opportunity to improve health by understanding the impact of a public approach, and to ensure that the government invested in interventions and services to improve health outputs and address inequalities, rather than continuing historic trends in funding ‘NHS illness services.’ That was echoed by Professor John Wilkinson, who chairs the Association of Public Health Observatories. He said the Wanless Report provided a significant opportunity to ratchet up the public health agenda in England.