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RSPH call for healthier high streets

Katie Coyne08/11/2018 - 13:54

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Fast food joints count towards unhealthy score
Fast food joints count towards unhealthy score

Healthier high streets mean longer life expectancy and could improve the public health of the nation according to the Royal Society for Public Health.

The charity is calling on the government to improve the health of the high street and in turn public health. Its report ‘Health on the high street: running on empty’

ranks 70 of the UK’s high streets in major towns according to health and has found a difference in life expectancy of two and a half years between the top and bottom ten areas.

The RSPH published a similar ranking three years ago but in its latest league table it has added off licences and empty shops to the negative health influences, and cafes and vape shops to the positive influences. The number of fast food outlets has increased by 4,000 across the country between 2014 and 2017.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer CBE said: ‘While the face of the British high street continues to change, the environmental and economic factors that influence inequalities in health outcomes across the country remain stubbornly intractable.

‘Our health on the high street rankings illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy. Reshaping these high streets to be more health-promoting could serve as a tool to help redress this imbalance.’

The top healthiest high streets included Edinburgh, Canterbury and Taunton. The top unhealthiest included Grimsby, Walsall, and Blackpool.

London was not included in the national survey and had its own league table with Muswell Hill, Hornchurch, and Pinner coming top and West Green Road, Roman Road, and Thornton Heath top of the unhealthiest.

The survey also reported that number of vape shops has doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 in the past three years, and that high street vacancy rate had increased from below 7 per cent in 2007 to 11 per cent in 2017.

The RSPH is now calling on the government to support healthy high streets and wants the Treasury to review how businesses taxes are determined to ensure high street shops are not at an unfair advantage to online retailers. It added that 75 per cent of the public back this measure. 

RSPH is also calling for Facebook and Google to provide discounted advertising opportunities to independent health-promoting businesses. The charity also recommends that vape shops should make all customers aware of local stop smoking schemes, it recommends. It also wants to see local authorities keep records on vacant high street properties and support ‘meanwhile’ use of vacant shops.

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