24 Jul 2019
Caroline Bovey RD BEM is BDA Chair
The government’s long-awaited Prevention Green Paper, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s includes a raft of commitments to improve public health and prevention. However, the way in which the consultation paper was launched, and previous comments from the new Prime Minister is a cause for concern. It is vital that this strategy has support across government and at the highest levels, and that there is a strong commitment to evidence-based approaches to tackling some of the most complex public health challenges facing the country.
The BDA welcomes many of the proposals outlined within the paper, including the ban on energy drink sales, the creation of Chapter 3 of the childhood obesity plan and a commitment to recommission an infant feeding survey. We also welcome the recognition of the importance of wider determinants of health. It will be important for government to back this up with policies to improve housing, reduce poverty and invest in education, all of which are closely linked to health and wellbeing. It is disappointing not to have seen malnutrition/undernutrition recognised alongside obesity as a key area of concern, and we will push for greater recognition of this in our response.
While the strategy is certainly far reaching, we have seen such commitments and promises from government before, and many of the announcements lack detail or are only a promise to consult on further action. The lack of information on proposals around calorie labelling, promotions and HFSS food marketing, which were consulted on some time ago, is particularly disappointing.
At the same time, government is taking steps which undermine the intentions outlined within the green paper. Local government Public Health Budgets continue to fall, having reduced dramatically over the past decade. As a consequence, important provision such as tier one and two weight management or health visiting services have been cut back or stopped altogether. A real postcode lottery now exists in public health services across England.
Funding for important national programmes such as PHE’s public health marketing campaigns have also been cut, reducing their scope to promote health messages on smoking, alcohol and healthy eating at a time when all three have been recognised as key areas of focus. We hope this green paper will signal a change in the government’s approach and a reversal of these funding cuts.
The BDA will be responding the green paper’s consultation questions in due course, and will work alongside colleagues and partners, including the Obesity Health Alliance, to push for further government action.