PM announces new Office for Health Promotion to tackle obesity and poor mental health

A new Office for Health Promotion will be formed to tackle obesity and poor mental health, as lockdown restrictions are eased and the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) said on Monday it will be “crucial in tackling the causes, not just the symptoms” of ill-health, with the office’s launch expected by the autumn.

Modelled on schemes such as Singapore’s health promotion board, the office will be tasked with tackling the top preventable risk factors causing death and ill health in England.

It will design policy across Whitehall and will be led by an expert reporting to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty.

There will be no new funding for the office, with its resources coming from the existing health budget, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), where it will be based.

The Prime Minister said: “The new Office for Health Promotion will be crucial in tackling the causes, not just the symptoms, of poor health and improving prevention of illnesses and disease.

“Covid-19 has demonstrated the importance of physical health in our ability to tackle such illnesses, and we must continue to help people to lead healthy lives so that we can all better prevent and fight illnesses.”

The DHSC said that about 80% of people’s health outcomes are not due to their healthcare but wider preventable risk factors, such as diet, smoking and exercise, while ill-health among the working-age population costs the economy £100 billion per year.

Mr Hancock said: “Prevention is better than cure. By putting in place innovative prevention measures, we can help everyone to live longer, healthier lives as we ease back to normality and relieve pressures from our NHS.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the new office “must be backed up by proper investment”.

“The Covid crisis has shone a light on the shocking inequalities that left us vulnerable and lacking resilience when the pandemic hit,” the Labour MP added.

“Years of Conservative governments mean advances in life expectancy had stalled and even gone backwards for some of the poorest in this country even before the pandemic.

“The disproportionate impact of this virus on both the worst off and black, Asian and ethnic minority communities must also be a wake-up call.”

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