Healthy Lives, Healthy People - the future of public health

The Public Health White Paper offers a ringfenced public health budget, a new public health service to hand power to local authorities, and recognition that “prevention is better than cure.”

Healthy Lives, Healthy People aims to tackle the crucial issue of public health by giving more power to local authorities to help improve the health and wellbeing of those in their area. Health Minister Andrew Lansley unveiled the plans, promising that “People’s health and wellbeing will be at the heart of everything local councils do.” He added “too often in the past, public health budgets have been raided by the NHS to tackle deficits. Not any more. The money will be ringfenced to be used as it should be – for preventing ill health.”

Key plans for the future of public health

The plans revolve around decentralising public health and giving local authorities more power over the public health budgets in their area. Key plans include:

  • The creation of a dedicated public health service – Public Health England – aimed at increasing responsiveness to health threats, and providing information for those making decisions on public health programmes.
  • Ring-fenced funding for public health from the overall NHS budget.
  • A ‘health premium’ for those areas with greater health inequalities, to reward local authorities for progress made against elements of the proposed public health outcomes framework.

Further ideas – early years, children, and road accidents

Alongside these key announcements, the government has also recognised the importance of early intervention, and pledges to increase support for early years.

“Starting well, through early interventions and prevention, is a key priority for the Government, developing strong universal public health and early education with an increased focus on disadvantaged families.” Page 32, Para 3.5

There is recognition of the enormous impact that road accidents have on children in England, and a commitment to tackle these through a “tailored, local approach.”

“There are opportunities to reduce road accidents – the leading cause of accidental death and injury of children in the UK, resulting in almost 21,000 injuries in 2009.” P 19 Para 1.23

The companion paper, ‘Our Health and Wellbeing Today’ highlights the socioeconomic factors that play a part in child road deaths, explaining that “there is a significant social gradient and local variation in deaths from road accidents.”

The paper also discusses incentives for GPs to encourage them to play and active role in public health, and recognises the crucial role that Directors of Public Health will play in the new public health service.

Directors of Public Health are seen as the strategic leaders for public health and health inequalities in local communities, working in partnership with the local NHS and across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

In Healthy People, Healthy Lives there is also a recognition that children require different a different approach to adults.

“We will treat capable, responsible and informed adults as adults. We will treat children differently as they rely more on adults to help make decisions or to make decisions for them when they are very young.” P29 Para 2.24

More information

View Healthy Lives, Healthy People to find out more about the proposals.

Read the companion paper Our Health and Wellbeing Today

More information will be coming soon, with consultation documents on the public health outcomes framework, and funding and commissioning arrangements for public health responsibilities. We will keep you updated on Making the Link when these are released.

Updated March 2012