The Public Health White Paper

On 15 March 2011, the Department of Health (DH) launched The Public Health Responsibility Deal. The Responsibility Deal is a new mechanism to take forward some aspects of the work to improve health outcomes outlined in the government’s Public Health White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England published in 2010.

The Public Health White Paper emphasises that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to improving public health has been shown not to work and proposes a new approach for addressing public health issues, primarily through a shift in responsibility from central government to local authorities. The report includes a proposal to work collectively with businesses and the voluntary sector to deliver public health improvements, through the Public Health Responsibility Deal.

The structure of the Responsibility Deal

The Responsibility Deal has been established to tap into the potential for businesses and other organisations to improve public health through their influence on food, alcohol, physical activity behaviours and health in the workplace. The Deal was launched in March 2011.

The Responsibility Deal comprises five ‘Networks’ on food, alcohol, physical activity, health at work and behaviour change and its development has been overseen by a plenary group chaired by Andrew Lansley. The Responsibility Deal is made up of a series of core commitments and supporting pledges which define the scope, purpose and ambitions of the Responsibility Deal. The core commitments, which any organisation can sign up to, are as follows:

  • We recognise that we have a vital role to play in improving people’s health
  • We will encourage and enable people to adopt a healthier diet
  • We will foster a culture of responsible drinking, which will help people to drink within guidelines
  • We will encourage and assist people to become more physically active
  • We will actively support our workforce to lead healthier lives.

Food Network pledges

Each of the five Networks (Food, Alcohol, Physical Activity, Health at Work and Behaviour Change) has agreed an initial set of collective pledges. For the Food Network, the first set of pledges, which are for the food industry, are as follows:

  • We will provide calorie information for food and non alcoholic drinks for our customers in out of home settings from 1 September 2011 in accordance with the principles for calorie labelling agreed by the Responsibility Deal.
  • We commit to the salt targets for the end of 2012 agreed by the Responsibility Deal, which collectively will deliver a further 15% reduction on 2010 targets.  For some products this will require acceptable technical solutions which we are working to achieve.  These targets will give a total salt reduction of nearly 1g per person per day compared to 2007 levels in food.  We recognise that achieving the public health goal of consuming no more than 6g of salt per person per day will necessitate action across the whole industry, government, NGOs and individuals.
  • We have already removed, or will remove, artificial trans fats from our products by the end of 2011.

As of August, 2011, 32 companies have currently signed up to the out of home calorie labelling pledge (which means that they must provide calorie information for food and
non-alcoholic drinks from 1 September 2011 in out of home settings). Work is underway on two new pledges, one on access to fruit and vegetables and the other around calorie reduction in the food supply.

For further information and to view the Responsibility Deal click here