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homeWednesday 8th July 2020

Councils told to narrow health gap

Tom Wall01/02/2012 - 13:00

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Air quality is included but housing is not.
Air quality is included but housing is not.

Councils have been tasked with improving people’s health throughout their lives and reducing differences in life expectancy.

The government’s public health outcome framework for England says overarching goals of the new public health system are to:

  • Increase healthy life expectancy i.e. taking account of the health quality as well as the length of life.
  • Reduce differences in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy between communities (through greater improvements in more disadvantaged communities).

Councils will takeover public health duties from the NHS in 2013.

The framework also sets out 66 indicators to contribute to the overarching goals.

The indicators, which will be used to measure performance and award extra funding, include air quality, fuel poverty, homelessness, utilisation of green spaces, smoking, falls and excess winter deaths.

However there is no mention of housing conditions, contaminated land or the provision of clean water and wholesome food to reduce disease.

David Kidney, CIEH Head of Policy, said the government’s approach was consistent with the Marmot agenda of tackling the wider determinants of health and wellbeing through all the life stages.

‘During the planning for the outcomes framework, we argued for the inclusion of a number of indicators aimed directly at improving the wider determinants of health. We are therefore very pleased to see in the published document indicators for air quality, falls, fuel poverty, noise and the utilisation of green space,’ he said

He said the CIEH would have liked to see a ‘stronger emphasis’ on housing conditions, because the link between health and housing is very clear.

‘The opportunity is being missed to take up the challenges of reducing disrepair and overcrowding in all housing sectors and especially in the private rented sector,’ he said.

But he said there were indicators which have a bearing on people’s home lives such as domestic abuse and people with mental illness or disability in settled accommodation.

Local authorities and the clinical commissioning groups, made up of GPs and hospital clinicians, will select the indicators most relevant to the needs of their local populations. The local joint health and wellbeing strategy will set out how they will then be addressed.

Mr Kidney explained: ‘The pieces of the jigsaw that are still missing are first the basis of the proposed incentive payments (the health premium) and secondly the indicative ring-fenced budgets for local authorities for their public health functions. We look forward to the department publishing these crucial elements as soon as possible.’

The government also announced that councils will be given an estimated £2.2bn to prepare for the transfer of public health responsibilities from the NHS next year.

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