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Andrew Lansley explains how a Department of Public Health would provide "national leadership in the fight to prevent ill health and promote well-being"

Andrew Lanlsey on Marr There has already been coverage this morning of Andrew Lansley's proposal to measure alcohol content in drinks by centilitres rather than units, and to put calorie content on labels on alcoholic drinks.

Yet that was just the initial headline-grabbing measure to come out of a speech he has given to the think-tank 2020Health to launch a new green paper on public health.

It is already known that the Department for Health will be renamed the Department for Public Health if the Conservatives win the General Election, and what Mr Lansley has sought to do today is to indicate how a future Conservative Government would refocus the department's efforts.

He said:

"We will refocus the role of the Department of Health – instead of micro-managing clinicians’ daily activity through endless circulars and directives, we will focus on providing national leadership in the fight to prevent ill health and promote well-being.  Public health success relies on the success of other government goals such as poverty reduction and better housing conditions.  So our public health strategy will cut across departmental boundaries, and be coordinated by a Secretary of State for Public Health at Cabinet level.

"We also need local leadership.  Our overall vision for public health reform is unashamedly decentralised.  The causes of ill health and health inequalities are rooted in local issues such as housing, education, worklessness and family breakdown.  So we believe that the most effective thing Government can do is empower local communities to identify local needs and tailor solutions to local problems.  That’s why we will realise our new Public Health Service through a strong local infrastructure, and support it with separate, ring-fenced budgets devoted specifically to tackling these challenges.

"We will ensure that rewards follow results in a system of local accountability for resources and decision-making.  We think that this system of payment by results will also provide a powerful mechanism to improve the health of the poorest fastest.   We know that deprived communities have some of the worst and most entrenched public health problems.   That’s why we will introduce a new ‘Health Premium’ to target public health resources towards areas with the poorest health, and reward those areas for the improvements they achieve.  In place of Labour’s addiction to short-term initiatives that disappear without results and without trace, we will incentivise and lock in local innovation to improve the health of our poorest communities.

"Finally, we need to unleash a new era of individual and social responsibility.  Unlike Labour, we recognise that there is no legislative prescription for most of the lifestyle-related diseases we are facing.  We know that we need to understand and work with human behaviour so that we can develop more effective policies and interventions.  We believe that the positive choices that promote wellbeing will come through more information, better role models and positive social norms.  So we will use the latest academic research in social psychology and behavioural economics to harness the potential that people already have to lead healthy, productive and satisfying lives.

"But in order that people are able to make the right choices we need to provide them with simple and correct information.  That is why, for example, we are going to move away from the confusing system of alcohol units, and also provide people with relevant, consistent information such as the centilitres of alcohol in alcohol products, and the calories content in each alcoholic drink."

You can click here to download a pdf of the green paper

Jonathan Isaby


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