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The public health white paper

10th December 2010

In an editorial, The Lancet suggests that the UK Public Health White Paper could be no more than “just words.”

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After six months in power, the UK coalition government’s health secretary Andrew Lansley presented his White Paper, Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our Strategy for Public Health in England, to Parliament on November 30.

It featured plans long on rhetoric but short on detail with uncontroversial promises not backed up with credible policies.

According to the government, its new approach to improve public health will be responsive, resourced, rigorous, and resilient with a new “integrated public health service” created mainly for the purpose of health protection.

This will see collaborative working with the big business and the private sector to improve public health.

Some £4 billion has been pledge for the project but with the cost of treating smoking set at £2.7bn a year, £4.2bn spent on obesity-related illness, falls in older people costing the NHS £1.4bn and alcohol misuse a further £2.7bn, it will be inadequate.

The structural reforms at the same time will be a further distraction while the shift towards individual responsibility discards two centuries of evidence about the importance of government-led public-health reform and its benefits.

There is little to support the government’s aspirations and more to suggest they are listening to industry than evidence.

The participation of big business in the policy-setting process is a cause for serious concern.

So what does the White Paper amount to?

One senior Conservative former health minister was overhead to say “it’s just words”.

 

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