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The King's Fund response to the public health White Paper

1st December 2010

Responding to today’s public health White Paper, Healthy lives, healthy people, Anna Dixon, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund said:

‘Today’s White Paper is the latest attempt to transform the health system from one that diagnoses and treats sickness, to one that predicts and prevents it. Although we will have to wait until the new year for much of the detail, the coalition will hope to succeed where previous governments have failed by giving public health the priority it needs through a radical shake up of the system.

‘Giving responsibility for public health to local authorities is a positive move and an opportunity to improve co-ordination of the various services with a role to play in improving health. But this must not result in public health being separated from the work of the NHS – GPs and other health professionals have a vital contribution to make so we welcome the emphasis in the White Paper on strengthening the role of GPs in improving the health of their local populations.

‘Ministers are right to focus on how people can be nudged to adopt healthier lifestyles. But, as the ban on smoking in public places has shown, strong state intervention is also needed to change people’s behaviour and meet the challenges posed by smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity. It remains to be seen whether the government will strike the right balance on this. The question is not whether regulation or nudging is more effective – a combination of both is required to deliver the behaviour changes needed.

‘The White Paper includes some commitments across government to address health inequalities, but it is not clear whether it is ambitious enough to address the significant and growing gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. The new health premium could provide a mechanism for diverting extra funding to deprived areas, although it is not at all clear how it will work.’

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