Britain's new health policy recognises poverty as major cause of illness

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 14 February 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:493
  1. Jack Warden
  1. London

    A holistic approach to public health that identifies poverty as a main cause of illness is being adopted by the British government, which issued two green papers for England and Scotland: Our Healthier Nation and Working Together for a Healthier Scotland.

    These papers mark a major difference in health policy between the Labour government and its Conservative predecessor by acknowledging that the root causes of ill health are mostly social, economic, and environmental and require policies that target help at those who are worst off.

    Concerted action is promised across government departments to tackle poor housing, low wages, unemployment, crime, and air pollution.

    The twin objectives are to improve the health of the population as a whole by lengthening people's lives and increasing the number of years they spend free of illness, and to improve the health of those who are worst off in society and narrow the health gap between rich and poor.

    Action to tackle poor housing is promised



    For England there are to be specific 12 year targets to reduce the number of deaths in four priority areas: heart disease and stroke; accidents; cancer; and mental health. These targets supersede the 27 targets in the former Health of the Nation programme. The smaller number of national …

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