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Jobs and housing needed for good public health says report

Katie Coyne30/11/2017 - 11:25

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Thriving community key to public health
Thriving community key to public health

Public health must be at the heart of all local authority policy and £65m is needed to boost creative new public health schemes.

This is according to a report from think tank the New Local Government Network, which looked at the impact of the transfer of public health to local government.

Initially when responsibility for public health was transferred to local government in 2013, funding was ring-fenced. However year-on-year cuts mean that the funding will have disappeared by 2019.

The transfer was an opportunity to improve the wider determinants of public health as it moved away from a clinical setting. However, the NLGN report suggests there is further work to do in this area.

As well as calling on the government to clarify spending on public health the NLGN recommends that local authority financial and economic policy considers public health outcomes, and that two-tier councils work more collaboratively.

Paul Carter leader of  Kent County Council said in the foreword: ‘The challenges of an ageing population, widening health inequalities and a backdrop of falling budgets mean that effective prevention has never been more essential. 

‘Collaboration is crucial. In two-tier areas, county councils hold public health responsibilities, but district councils are key partners, given their levers for planning, environmental health and housing, and of course, their relationships with local communities.’

The report made a number of recommendations including fostering closer links between public health teams and economic development teams as good health and employment are closely linked, as well as poor health and unemployment.

Housing and planning were also highlighted as ‘key partners’ for public health, yet while these links are developing well in unitary councils, in two tier councils more work is needed.

The executive summary stated: ‘A stable, good quality job, decent home and thriving community strongly determine someone's health over a lifetime, and their children's health from before they are born. And so, to strengthen the preventative offer, the influence of public health will need to extend to a wider range of services which can help reduce illness before it ever occurs.’

The authors said that Health and Wellbeing boards (HWBs) were not focussed enough on the wider determinants of public health. It therefore recommends the government legislate that all local public services must have regard for the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy in their local area.

In order to ‘pump prime’ the capacity of HWBs to address the wider determinants of public health it recommends a £65m, five-year up-stream prevention pilot. This would be used to fund innovative public health pilots and fund an officer for the board in two-tier areas to drive public health work and engagement.

The NLGN report also recommended that the LGA help with peer-to-peer training on soft skills such as communication and influencing.


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