Public Health and the Voluntary Sector Health equalities persist and the gap between the life expectancy of those fortunately enough to be born in Alderley Edge or Handforth and those in Speke or Cheetham Hill is stark. Poverty and the ‘benefits’ trap is the biggest barrier to being able to enjoy a healthier life and we support all efforts to secure a living wage and improve the education and housing prospects of our most disadvantaged citizens.

At the same time smoking rates in some NW wards may be 15% higher than the national average, levels of obesity are increasing linked with income levels and type 2 diabetes, usually a ‘lifestyles’ disease, is being identified in younger people. This isn’t just about how long we live – we are getting better at keeping people alive – but the quality of life in our later years. Living the last five - ten years of our lives with poor mobility and on a lorry load of pills is not attractive. Yet the nation’s collective spend on treatment is exponentially higher than its spend on prevention. We are constantly told that education is the answer but if that is the case, smoking rates would be at

Yet the nation’s collective spend on treatment is exponentially higher than its spend on prevention. We are constantly told that education is the answer but if that is the case, smoking rates would be at 5% not 22% or 35%. Preaching at people on lower incomes that they need to stop smoking, take more exercise, eat better and drink less is never going to work. If you’re surrounded by junk food outlets, your mates started smoking in their teens and the bloke down the road is offering cheap ‘knock-off’ booze, it’s a little harder to make the ‘right’ choice than if you’re living in leafier surroundings. We need to make it easier for people to be healthy. The voluntary sector has a key role to play. It’s our sector who shouted loudly for the

The voluntary sector has a key role to play. It’s our sector who shouted loudly for the smokefree legislation passed in 2006 which means we can now go to the pub or work without having to breathe in secondhand smoke. It’s our sector that’s calling for curbs on the marketing of junk food to kids, for 20 mph speed limits in urban areas to protect children, pedestrians and cyclists and for a minimum unit price for alcohol. But when we do this, we are told this is political. Of course it is. Since when was health not political? Charities need to be open and transparent about how they use their

But when we do this, we are told this is political. Of course it is. Since when was health not political? Charities need to be open and transparent about how they use their funds but our calls for more effective regulation and policy to support better health must be defended. When the Health Equalities Group launched our Give Up Loving Pop campaign (about sugary drinks) we were attacked by the Food and Drink industry and two shopping centres refused to take our roadshow because of commercial interests. Who controls them? This is also a call for effective commissioning. Public health outcomes may not accrue until long in the future and are hard to evaluate. They don’t always fit neatly into elected members’ timeframes. Our sector is often seen as containing providers only and we are not always involved in key policy decisions at local level. Public health is now located in local authorities with all the pressure on budgets this entails and health spending is with Clinical Commission Groups who don’t always understand the prevention agenda (their name is a clue). This

Public health outcomes may not accrue until long in the future and are hard to evaluate. They don’t always fit neatly into elected members’ timeframes. Our sector is often seen as containing providers only and we are not always involved in key policy decisions at local level. Public health is now located in local authorities with all the pressure on budgets this entails and health spending is with Clinical Commission Groups who don’t always understand the prevention agenda (their name is a clue).

This is therefore a shout out to support our sector which plays a key role in promoting health and reducing health inequalities whilst our own income is reduced, we are under attack by Big Food, Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol for being ‘political’ and yet local authorities still often exclude us from key policy debates.

Intelligent commissioning andengagement please.


 

Robin Ireland

Chief Executive - Health Equalities Group


 

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