Saturday, 27 July 2013

Bold decisions are needed on health

Earlier this week I published a letter in the Leicester Mercury calling on the Government to show more ambition on public health. This follows decisions not to proceed with minimum unit alcohol pricing or plain packaging for cigarettes.

I agree with the Mercury Opinion "Decisions on public health are wrong" (July 23).

The Government's recent decisions not to proceed with minimum unit pricing for alcohol or plain packaging for cigarettes raise serious questions.

Based on these decisions it is clear this Government has no ambition when it comes to public health.

To make significant improvements to public health and to tackle long-term illness and preventable deaths, governments need to be bold and radical.

The big decisions necessary will always be controversial and generate heated debate.

Take, for example, the ban on smoking in public places. This law has had a significant and positive impact on public health.

I remember well the controversy this created at the time, as well as the criticism the then Labour Government faced for proposing this radical and reforming legislation.

In Leicester, we are determined to see public health improve.

The city council, together with its partners, will continue to invest in its successful stop smoking campaigns.

Smoking is the UK's biggest killer and Leicester has a smoking rate higher than the national average.

Our aim is to see Leicester as a smoke-free city by 2035. This is a bold and ambitious target.

Sadly, the Government appears not to share our ambition as moving to plain packaging would have had a major impact on reducing smoking, as shown by evidence from other countries.

In 2010-11, there were more than 6,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions in Leicester. Health partners in the city are determined to address this problem and ensure a good range of services for people affected by alcohol misuse.

Minimum pricing could have played a big role in reducing the misuse of alcohol.

There are significant health challenges in Leicester. The council and NHS partners are determined to see improvements and to help residents lead healthier lives.

From my discussions with organisations and residents, I know there is a shared commitment in the city to improve health and to tackle health inequalities.

While the Government shies away from the bold decisions needed on public health, locally we will continue to set out ambitious plans to improve the health of our city.

Rory Palmer
Deputy City Mayor

This letter was first published in the Leicester Mercury, 25 July 2013.