The King's Fund welcomes government's inequalities strategy but further progress needed in tackling unhealthy lifestyles

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Commenting on today’s publication of the Department of Health report, Health Inequalities: Progress and Next Steps, King’s Fund Chief Executive Niall Dickson said:

'We welcome the government's continued commitment to tackling health inequalities – this is without doubt one of the most significant challenges facing not only the NHS but government and society as a whole.

'As today's report rightly acknowledges there has been solid progress in improving health in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. The gap in infant mortality between social classes has reduced marginally over the last four years, and there has been a general improvement in life expectancy overall. But some health inequalities continue to widen – and the geographical gap in life expectancy has risen for women and remained static for men.

'What we need to see now is a continued cross-government strategy to tackle unhealthy lifestyles. Today’s report marks the start of that. As our report, Our future health secured? A review of NHS funding and performance, showed last year, if we do not make significant strides on tackling unhealthy lifestyles, especially with regard to obesity, then we will have to spend substantially more on the NHS than would otherwise be the case – so much so that it could threaten the long-term viability of the service

'While individuals' actions greatly affect their own health, the government has rightly acknowledged that people need help and support in making decisions about their health. A co-ordinated effort is required where national and local government, as well as the NHS, employers and other key players, work together to create healthier environments where healthier choices are easier to make.'

Notes to editors

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund press and public office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. Our Future Health Secured? A review of NHS funding and performance, published by the King’s Fund in September 2007, looked at where NHS money has been spent, what it has achieved, whether government policy has promoted effective use of the resources, and what needs to happen next. It addresses the failure to meet obesity targets on page 175.
  3. In December 2007 the King’s Fund launched a programme on public health called Kicking Bad Habits. Details about that programme, including a paper discussing the effectiveness of financial incentives for promoting healthier behaviours, can be found on the website.
  4. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.