The three most senior figures at the DoH are co-opting charities and commercial companies into a new initiative to improve England's public health.
The Coalition for Better Health will be run jointly by NHS chief executive David Nicholson, CMO Sir Liam Donaldson, and DoH permanent secretary Sir Hugh Taylor.
It will bring together 35 'partner' organisations from the NHS, business and the third sector. Spokespeople for Tesco and Unilever confirmed the companies' involvement. The Men's Health Forum is believed to be among the other organisations taking part.
A DoH spokeswoman said the coalition would attempt to expand upon the success of the recent 'Change4Life' anti-obesity initiative. 'It is a vehicle for bringing people together from all sectors, to talk about how they can tackle big health issues of the day,' she said.
The coalition will initially focus on four areas: alcohol, obesity, physical activity and workplace health.
Professor Richard Parish, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said that his invite to the coalition's first meeting in July was the first joint invitation he had ever received from the three most senior figures in the health service. 'That speaks volumes about the level of commitment across the DoH to this initiative.'
He hoped the coalition would find ways to tackle 'the underlying determinants of health', including education, transport, environment and diet. He cited the role companies like Tesco could play in improving Britain's health, by making changes to such things as the food supply.
Dr Michael Dixon, NHS Alliance chairman, welcomed the coalition's 'holistic' approach. But he warned: 'We do not need another talking shop. We need practical implementation.'
He also questioned whether the DoH was open to 'innovative' solutions. 'All we have seen so far is PCTs hiring health trainers to run non-smoking clinics,' he said.
The DoH expects to announce further details by the end of October.