The King's Fund comments on the announcement of the new Office for Health Promotion

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Commenting on the announcement of the new Office for Health Promotion, Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said: 

‘It is a relief that government has now provided some clarity on future responsibilities for improving the nation’s health. Establishing the new Office for Health Promotion within the Department of Health and Social Care will ensure a nucleus of much-needed public health expertise in government.  

‘This expertise could be a catalyst for the cross-government action needed to improve the public’s health and tackle the health inequalities so brutally exposed by the pandemic, if it is given adequate funding and a strong remit to work across government policy.  

‘But today’s announcement does not add up to compelling vision for creating a healthier society and needs to be swiftly followed by a clear plan for improving the health of the nation, at the centre of which should be a new cross-government health inequalities strategy backed by clear national goals.

‘Ministers rightly acknowledge that “prevention is better than cure”, and this rhetoric needs to be matched by reality. The structural rearrangement announced today arrives just days after government announced local authority public health funding that is 24 per cent lower in real terms in 2021/22 compared to 2015/16. The Spending Review will need to increase the public health budget significantly to make up for recent cuts. 

‘Covid-19 will leave a monumental public health challenge in its wake. Last year, England saw the biggest drop in life expectancy since the Second World War, and the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the deep divide between the health of the richest and poorest in the country. Confronting these challenges will require a coherent vision that aligns the work of all government departments, but that vision, or the funding to match it, is yet to materialise.’

Notes to editors

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.