Government launches public health white paper

The government has pledged to address the needs of people with
mental health problems, prisoners and older people in its white
paper on public health published this week, writes
Clare Jerrom.

The Department of Health also promised to strengthen services to
improve sexual health and deliver better services to prevent and
treat alcohol problems.

Health secretary John Reid said that having defeated many deadly
infectious diseases, the government faced the challenge of
avoidable ill-health caused by poor diet, a lack of exercise and

“These are challenges for all of us to address in our
lifestyles – making our own choices about what to eat, how
often to exercise and whether we smoke, drink too much, take drugs
or engage in risky sexual activity,” he added.

Mental health

The report says that increasing social support, inclusion and
participation helps to protect mental wellbeing. It stresses that
tackling stigma associated with mental health is crucial to
promoting this participation.

The DoH will work through the National Institute for Mental
Health in England to ensure day services for people with severe
mental health problems develop to provide support for employment,
occupation and mainstream social contact beyond the mental health

This will include:-

• person centred provision that caters for the needs of
individuals, including those with severe mental health
• providing befriending, advocacy or support to enable people
to access local services (including childcare services)
• a focus on social exclusion and employment outcomes

“We will develop new approaches to helping people with
mental illness manage their own care and make available information
for them on all aspects of health, both mental and physical
wellbeing,” the report says.

Health of prisoners

The report highlights that people in prison have poorer health
than the rest of the population and the white paper suggests
prisoners are given information about health services as well as
support aimed at influencing their drug and alcohol and tobacco


Older people

The right kind of support can markedly improve the ability of
older people to take ownership of planning and follow through a
healthy lifestyle. People with chronic diseases and disabilities
are also able to manage their condition themselves with support
from others. With help to develop their skills, they can take
greater control of their own health and their lives.

The white paper pledges that by 2008, 3,000 community matrons
will be introduced to take the lead to provide personalised care
and health advice for patients with complex health problems.

Sexual health

The government also pledges to commit new capital and revenue
funding to tackle the high rate of sexually transmitted infections
in England.

The document promises to:-

• support modernisation of the NHS sexual health
• communicate better with people about the risk
• offer more accessible services
• accelerate the implementation pf a national screening
programme for chlamydia
• carry out an audit of contraceptive service provision in
early 2005 and invest to meet gaps in local services


The DoH will build on the commitments in the Alcohol Harm
Reduction Strategy for England through:-

• guidance and training to ensure health professionals are
able to identify alcohol problems early
• piloting approaches to targeted screening in primary care
and hospital settings
• similar initiatives in criminal justice settings in a bid
to reduce re-offending
• developing a programme for improvement for alcohol
treatment services

The report also highlights that the health needs of adults who
access social care will be the subject of further consultation in
the work for the proposed Green Paper on adult social care.

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