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The Public Health White Paper

The White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England was published on the 30 November 2010. It is available on the Department of Health website.

Background

White Papers are issued by the Government to propose new procedure. This White Paper proposes a new approach for addressing public health issues in England – primarily through a shift in responsibility from central government to local authorities.  It is accompanied by a review of the evidence on the health of the nation: Our Health and Wellbeing Today, which is also available online.

The paper covers all aspects of public health, from the health of particular population groups (such as young children, pregnant mothers and older adults) to infectious disease, mental health, health inequalities, drug and alcohol abuse, physical activity and obesity. Although nutrition is not covered specifically, it will be key to aspects of the proposed approach such as obesity prevention and reducing risk of chronic disease. Further documents on obesity and physical activity are expected in spring 2011.

The proposed approach


The new approach has been proposed to maximise the opportunities for better health and to reduce inequalities in health across England.  The Paper says the approach will “reflect the Government’s core values of freedom, fairness and responsibility by strengthening self-esteem, confidence and personal responsibility; positively promoting healthy behaviours and lifestyles; and adapting the environment to make healthy choices easier”.

The approach will apply to England only and is subject to Parliamentary approval of the Health and Social Care Bill, which will set out the core elements of the new approach.

The key proposed change is a shift in responsibility for many public health issues from central government to local authorities, enabling local communities to “improve health throughout people’s lives, reduce inequalities and focus on the needs of the local population”.


The approach involves working collaboratively with business and the voluntary sector through the Public Health Responsibility Deal with five networks on food, alcohol, physical activity, health at work and behaviour change.  The Food Network of the Responsibility Deal is currently developing pledges with industry for many public health nutrition issues, such as reduction of salt and trans fat in foods and calorie labelling of foods consumed outside the home. It is anticipated that the Responsibility Deal, including these pledges, will be published in early 2011.

Central government will remain responsible for health threats and wider determinants of health.  A new public health service, Public Health England, will be established as part of the Department of Health to strengthen the national response on emergency preparedness and health protection.

Next steps

During 2011, the Department of Health is expected to publish a number of documents that build on the approach outlined in this White Paper.  Documents relating to the Public Health Responsibility Deal, obesity and physical activity are expected to be published in Spring 2011.

Subject to Parliament’s approval of the Health and Social Care Bill, Public Health England will be created and take on full responsibilities from 2012.  The transfer of local health improvement functions to local government is expected from April 2013.

Last reviewed January 2011. Next review due January 2013. 

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