Public Health

23.07.19

Controversial new prevention green paper ‘a step in the right direction’

The long-awaited prevention green paper has been published by the government, including a host of policies targeting ill-health such as proposals tackling smoking, drinking and poor diets.

The ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’ green paper was released on Monday night without media fanfare, and has been treated with scepticism due to its timing, with the report coming less than 24 hours before the new Conservative leader is named.

The green paper reveals an ambition for the country to be smoke-free by 2030, and proposes forcing tobacco firms to pay a levy towards treating people who develop smoking-related diseases.

It also puts forward a potential ban for under-16s from purchasing energy drinks, and suggests extending the sugar tax from soft drinks to other highly sweetened products such as milkshakes, despite potential new prime minister Boris Johnson saying recently he was against such a move.

The green paper is cautiously-worded, suggesting the milkshake tax “may” be introduced, but does reiterate a pledge to halve childhood obesity by 2030 as well as a commitment to a salt reduction plan.

It states that the 2020s will be decade of proactive, predictive, and personalised prevention, meaning “targeted support, tailored lifestyle advice, personalised care and greater protection against future threats.”

READ MORE: Lack of prevention means continuation of ‘vicious circle’ of pressure on hospitals

Other areas of focus include mental health, using predictive prevention genetic analysis, and working with DEFRA on improving and combating air pollution,

The British Heart Foundation welcomed the prevention green paper, calling it a “promising step in the right direction” and the government’s focus on disease prevention “welcome and much-needed.”

Chief executive, Simon Gillespie, said the proposals “are essential if we are to shift the dial and reduce the huge burden of heart and circulatory diseases.”

But he did warn that responsibility for public health still sits with local authorities, and more local government funding and resources is needed.

The LGA also welcomed “some ambitious and interesting ideas,” but called it a “missed opportunity to make the most of councils’ role and expertise” as it ignores the role of local authorities in public health.

The green paper was published without any public backing from the health secretary Matt Hancock, and Johnson recently vowed to end the “continuing creep of the nanny state,” starting with a review of so-called “sin taxes.”

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