What public health commitments have political parties made?

Better population health is recognised as being key to reducing burden on the NHS. GP looks at the ways parties are planning to improve health and prevent illness.

Alcohol: parties have pledged to reduce harm (Photo: JH Lancy)
Alcohol: parties have pledged to reduce harm (Photo: JH Lancy)

The election manifestos have largely embraced the idea of improving public health.

There are varying approaches, but key themes include promoting healthy eating in children, minimum pricing for alcohol and reducing smoking rates.

Addiction, alcohol and smoking

  • Crack down on those high-strength, low-cost alcohol products that fuel binge drinking and underage drinking
  • Set a goal that children born in 2015 will become the first ‘smoke-free generation’
Liberal Democrat
  • Reduce smoking rates, including by completing the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco products, and introduce a tax levy on tobacco companies
  • Carefully monitor the growing evidence base around electronic cigarettes
  • Introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol
  • End the open display of tobacco in shops, introducing plain–packaged cigarettes and funding local authority public health budgets
  • Support people struggling with addictions and undertake a review into how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions, such as drug or alcohol addiction, or obesity, back into work
Green Party
  • Treat drug addiction as a health problem rather than a crime, making drugs policy the responsibility of the DH
  • Put a minimum price on alcohol of 50p per unit
  • Amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open properly ventilated smoking rooms
  • Oppose minimum pricing of alcohol
  • Reverse plain paper packaging legislation for tobacco products

Obesity prevention and physical exercise

  • Set limits on the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food marketed substantially to children such as cereals, crisps and soft drinks
  • Give local authorities new powers so that local communities can shape their high streets and manage the future number of fast food outlets
  • Reinstate the goal of all children doing a minimum two hours of PE a week
  • Restrict the marketing of junk food to children, including restricting TV advertising
Liberal Democrat
  • Encourage the traffic light labelling system for food products and publication of information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in restaurants and takeaways
  • Promote evidence-based ‘social prescribing’ of sport, arts and other activity to help tackle obesity, mental health problems and other health conditions
  • Take action to reduce childhood obesity and continue to promote clear food information
  • Implement a national, evidence-based diabetes prevention programme
  • £150m annual investment into school sports until 2020; this will make sure children benefit from a minimum of two hours high-class sport and PE each week
  • Improve the quality of community sports facilities, funding artificial football pitches in 30 cities across England
Green Party
  • Extend VAT at the standard rate to less health foods, including sugar, but spend the money raised on subsidising around one-third of the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables

The Conservative Party has said it will continue to implement its national diabetes prevention programme, which is currently in its pilot stages, and the Labour Party also says ‘firm action’ on diabetes is needed.

The Liberal Democrats have listed insulating homes, tackling air pollution, and building cycle routes as a priority. Health policies for the Green party include parenting programmes and ‘special attention’ to the first 1001 days of a child’s life.

UKIP’s manifesto is sparse on issues around preventative medicine but it pledges to improve mental health services, including ‘mental wellbeing assessments’ for patients showing signs of psychological distress when admitted to hospital.

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