Nanny or Steward? The role of government in public health

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In the past year, there has been much debate over the government's role in public health issues such as smoking and obesity.

Is government intervention in these areas an example of 'nanny statism' – an unnecessary intrusion into people's lives? Or is it a form of 'stewardship' – part of government's responsibility to protect national health?

This paper looks at the options open to governments that want to influence individual and collective behaviour to reduce health risks. It also examines historical and contemporary evidence on the impact of state intervention on public health.