Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Body Politic

So whose business is public health?

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 23 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6743
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Industry involvement in public health should come as no surprise to anybody

To listen to some critics, the UK coalition government’s plans for public health are a betrayal of Judas-like proportions. My local paper, in southeast London, managed to see Tory wickedness even in the abolition of free swimming in the local pool. Since when, I’m tempted to ask, has free swimming been every English person’s birthright and its denial a sickening hammer blow to public health?

That is not to say that the plans of England’s health secretary, Andrew Lansley, are beyond criticism, though it is hard to know precisely what they are before the public health white paper is published. But this has in no way deterred those who want to persuade us that the health secretary has sold his soul to the food and drinks industry, giving them the right to determine what his policy will be.

Whatever it is, it can hardly be less effective than Labour’s performance in government between 1997 and 2010. For an entertaining read I commend the evidence taken on 14 September this year by the House of Commons Committee on Public Accounts, investigating the failure …

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