Neoliberal economic policies “wreak havoc” on people’s health, says new UK health movement

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 13 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e4803
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. 1London

Campaigners in the United Kingdom have decided to build a new “people’s health movement” that will seek radical changes in policies that affect health nationally and across the world. It will draw on the work of similar movements already operating in countries such as India.

The UK’s first People’s Health Movement approved pledges to develop a manifesto for health and to help organise community networks after a meeting in Nottingham on 10-11 July.

The assembly condemned rising inequalities in health and expressed support for “creative actions” to uphold health as a fundamental human right and “reclaim” healthcare systems from corporate interests.

Linda Gibson, a senior lecturer in public health at Nottingham Trent University, which hosted the event, said that health inequalities were “deepening at every level” within local communities and globally. She told the BMJ, “We have to challenge the underlying structural reasons for these inequalities.”

Among some 70 assembly participants were doctors and other health workers, medical students, academics, economists, environmentalists, and equality and human rights activists.

Many spoke out against globalisation and neoliberal economic policies for wreaking havoc on people’s health (especially that of the poorest people in society), the environment, and democracy. They said that the global financial crisis, conflicts, climate change, and public service reforms were undermining communities, welfare systems, and jobs.

In a statement the assembly laid out its “vision” for a new economic, political, and social order made possible “through the message of health for all.”

Anuj Kapilashrami, an organiser of the event and a lecturer in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that she hoped the assembly would be the “starting point” for action across a wide front. She added that only a democratic people’s movement founded on principles of equity, justice, dignity, and community participation could tackle the challenges that many people now faced.

The need to save the NHS from privatisation was a key trigger for developing the movement in the UK, she said, which would learn from and be part of people’s health initiatives around the world.

The Nottingham meeting expressed “solidarity” with the third People’s Health Assembly, held simultaneously in Cape Town, South Africa, from 6-11 July. It also expressed support for the People’s Charter for Health, adopted at the first People’s Health Assembly in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in December 2000.

Kapilashrami said that the UK could learn from people’s health movements elsewhere and would need to “reach out” to existing civil society groups or networks of people, including community based health organisations, academic bodies, and trade unions.

The Nottingham meeting agreed to establish regional groups and “come together” by January 2013 with friends, organisations, and networks to further develop the movement.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e4803


  • The statement on behalf of the People’s Health Assembly can be seen on Facebook at, which invites comment and signing.

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