A new Office for Health Promotion will be formed to boost good health and prevent illness, the Government announced yesterday [Monday 29 March].
This new office will sit within the Department of Health and Social Care and work across national government, local government and the NHS. Our President, Professor Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, responds:
“Yesterday’s announcement provides important insight into government’s thinking for the future of public health. The proposals present a complex landscape developed in the midst of a pandemic. Government and partners across the public health and health and social care sector must now take time to work together to ensure the success of the proposed new system.
“The establishment of an Office for Health Promotion provides the opportunity for much-needed focus on improving and levelling up the health of the public.
“I am pleased that government recognises that improving the health of the population needs to be embedded across, and a priority for, all government departments. The announcement of a new cross-government ministerial board on prevention, that will be informed by the Office for Health Promotion, presents an important step in tackling the wider determinants of health, and in coordinating action across government to reduce health inequalities. Only by concerted action across government departments will we start to make real health gains.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the links between the wider determinants of health, health inequalities, health protection and health promotion. As the Academy outlined when it wrote to the Health and Social Care Secretary last year, if we want to improve the health and health outcomes for everyone, we need a strong, integrated public health system.
“We therefore need more information on how the Office for Health Promotion will effectively integrate with the new NHS structures set out in the Department of Health and Social Care’s recent White Paper, as well as with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced last week [Wednesday 24 March]. These must all work closely together if we are to make substantial gains in enhancing the health of the nation.
“There is little mention of the research capability of the Office for Health Promotion, though the Chief Medical Officer has signalled his support for working with scientists and researchers to develop evidence-based policies. Like the UKHSA, we urge the Office for Health Promotion to promote and enable cutting-edge research in collaboration with academic and other partners. This will ensure that its activities are supported by a robust evidence-base and informed by the most rigorous and up to date scientific research. To do so, we would like to see further details on how the Office for Health Promotion plans to ensure that it can work effectively with the wider research community.
“Importantly, as recognised in the government’s policy paper, the public health advice and insight provided by the Office for Health Promotion must be independent, evidence-based and authoritative to maximise its impact on the health of the public. I am pleased to see the commitment to strengthening the independent voice of the Chief Medical Officer. Clear mechanisms will be needed to develop and safeguard the independence of the Office for Health Promotion’s scientific advice, and we are delighted that government is seeking input on the most effective mechanisms to do so.
“The Academy stands ready to work with the Office for Health Promotion and looks forward to inputting into the consultation on the proposals for the future of public health. These reforms provide a unique opportunity to build an integrated multidisciplinary public health system that is fit for the 21st century. Together, we must get it right.”