Call for cross-party deal to protect public health

A public health body has called for a cross-party agreement to tackle health inequalities and end the cycle of inadequate short-term policies.

At a Westminster Health Forum conference on health inequalities in London, Graham Jukes, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health criticised the 'short-termness' of public health policy.

Episodic health initiatives, linked to parliamentary terms, focus on improving the health of the most deprived, he said.

But this does not tackle 'chronic public health issues' that must be addressed to cut rising NHS costs, he said.

Mr Jukes said: 'I'd like to see a cross-party agreement - a national public health forum - to develop a national strategic plan, to decide which longer term plans can be made.'

Mark Davies, director of health inequalities and partnership at the DoH, said the Health and Social Care Bill would for the first time enshrine steps to reduce health inequalities in legislation. 'This is a signal of how important health inequalities will be, now and in future,' he said.

Reducing health inequalities would be 'difficult' while NHS reforms took shape, he said.

'The challenge is how to maintain public health expertise and capacity. There is a risk we lose some of that.'

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