Onus on councils in public health drive

Local authorities and their relationship with primary care
trusts are central to the delivery of the public health agenda,
according to the government white paper published this week.

Behind the headline announcements on tackling smoking and
obesity, Choosing Health’s main focus is on promoting
well-being and preventing illness in communities through existing
and emerging joint commissioning and planning arrangements,
including local strategic partnerships and children’s

It makes several references to building on the foundations of
the new Children Act and the forthcoming green paper on youth

Delivering the paper to the House of Commons, health secretary
John Reid said it “set out action that maximises the positive
impact that local authorities… can have to help people make
those healthier choices”.

The paper also acknowledges the key role of the voluntary and
community sectors in achieving its goals, and particularly their
ability to engage harder to reach groups. Addressing the Community
Service Volunteers’ annual lecture last week, Reid identified
the “driving force” for voluntary groups as “a deeply-rooted
identity with specific client groups”.

However, the white paper fails to make any specific mention of
social work or its role in delivering the public health agenda. By
contrast, the role of school nurse and that of new personal health
trainers are given high prominence. Connexions personal advisers
will be “linked into” this new network of NHS-accredited health

Although the paper acknowledges the link between poor housing,
homelessness and poor health, it does not make any specific mention
of the role of housing authorities or housing associations. But it
does promise revised guidance on health and neighbourhood renewal
in early 2005.

The government will also publish a delivery plan next year to
“spell out the particular roles and responsibilities for health
improvement of all health and social care organisations”.

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