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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ministers urged to adopt 'health in all policies' approach following Brexit

Written by Jon Vale

Ministers have been urged to adopt a "health in all policies" approach after Brexit to help tackle inequality.

Labour's Luciana Berger said it was a "terrible indictment" on society that income determined how healthy people were, as she proposed a major change in policy making.

Draft legislation tabled by the former shadow health minister would require the Government to assess all its policies against the impact on people's physical and mental health.

"We are told that Brexit affords us the opportunity to reshape our laws and regulations," Ms Berger (pictured) told the Commons.

"No measure could have more positive benefits than the UK adopting a robust, full-throated approach to health in all policies.

"This Bill would provide a platform for attacking the health inequalities that blight our communities, for allowing our people to be fully engaged in maintaining their own health and wellbeing.

"It would be as solid a step forward as the restrictions on making and selling cheap gin in the 18th century; building the city sewers and delivering clean water in the 19th century; creating our NHS and clean air acts of the 20th century, or the smoking ban in the 21st century."

The Liverpool Wavertree MP, introducing her Health Impacts (Public Sector Duty) Bill, cited challenges in areas such as mental health, social care, loneliness, tobacco, substance misuse and childhood obesity.

There had been an increase in hospital admissions for malnutrition, she said, as well as a stalling in improvement in life expectancy for the first time in 100 years.

She also cited knife crime, the location of food banks and the Grenfell Tower fire for their impact on poorer communities.

Ms Berger said: "Poor people suffer poorer health and live shorter lives than affluent people.

"Income is a determinant of health, and what a terrible indictment on our society."

Examples of the new policy in practice ranged from designing buildings and estates to encourage walking, cycling and deterring vandalism, through to better assessments for benefits and placing duties on food manufacturers and takeaway shops.

"There is no better example of why we need a health in all policies approach than services for mums, dads and infants," she added.

"This stretches way beyond childcare provision and health checks. It means looking again at patterns of work, income, benefits, parenting, education, food, housing, transport, air quality, playgrounds and many other areas of policy."

Her Bill was introduced unopposed through the 10-minute rule motion and is scheduled to have its second reading on October 26, though is unlikely to become law without the support of the Government.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.