New 'Office for Health Promotion' to tackle public health
A new 'Office for Health Promotion' will lead national efforts to improve and level up the health of the nation by tackling obesity, improving mental health and promoting physical activity.
The Office will recruit an expert lead who will report jointly into the Health Secretary and the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty. The Office’s remit will be to systematically tackle the top preventable risk factors causing death and ill health in the UK, by designing, implementing and tracking delivery policy across government. It will bring together a range of skills to lead a new era of public health polices, leveraging modern digital tools, data and actuarial science and delivery experts.
The Office for Health Promotion will sit within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and will lead work across Government to promote good health and prevent illness which shortens lives and costs the NHS billions every year, building on the work of Public Health England.
It will enable more joined-up, sustained action between national and local government, the NHS and cross-Government, where much of the wider determinants of health sit.
A large proportion of people’s health outcomes (around 80%) are not related to the healthcare they receive but due to wider preventable risk factors (such as diet, smoking, exercise). The new Office will look to track these wider determinants of health and implement policies where appropriate. This Office and approach will be modelled on successful methods to this agenda internationally, such as in Singapore, which has a Health Promotion Board, and has pioneered new digital public health schemes, such as their ‘National Steps Challenge’.
The new Office will combine Public Health England’s health improvement expertise with existing DHSC health policy capabilities, in order to promote and deliver better health to communities nationwide. By combining and enhancing these functions, the Office will play a vital role in helping the public lead healthier lives.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of physical health in our ability to tackle such illnesses, and we must continue to help people to lead healthy lives so that we can all better prevent and fight illnesses."
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: "The non-direct harms of COVID on the public’s health will not be trivial. We need an evidence-informed and collaborative approach to health promotion and to support this recovery. The Office for Health Promotion will work across both national and local government as well as with the NHS, academia, the third sector, scientists, researchers and industry to develop evidence informed policies."
The Office for Health Promotion will be established by the autumn.