Speaking at a BMA debate, Mr Lansley described widening health inequalities as a ‘scar upon society’.
The government should not preach policy to local communities, instead allowing GP consortia and local government to co-produce plans, he said.
‘Our aim is to increase health of the poor fastest,’ he said. ‘We need to look at the causes of the causes. We’ve got to do much better and look at the causes of ill health.’
But he was disappointed just one attendee from local government attended the debate, given the role they will play in tackling inequalities.
Mr Lansley said changes were needed in the environment and social norms to tackle the determinants ‘at the heart’ of health inequalities.
In tackling obesity, more could be achieved by working in partnership with the food industry rather than taking a constraining approach, he said. ‘If we’re not careful, we’ll get pushed back. The public don’t want to see their choice restricted.’
But he was challenged by Professor Sir Ian Gilmore: ‘I’m concerned with the continued partnership with industry: they are there to make money for their shareholders.
‘In financial downturn it’s good to get someone to pick up the tab, but I don’t think we can ever have meaningful partnership.’