Leading bodies have joined forces to urge the government to ramp up spending on public health.
The British Dental Association (BDA) has banded together with 50 other organisations, calling for a commitment to prioritise and fund disease prevention and health improvement.
This comes as data shows that since 2015/16, the public health grant has been cut by around 22%.
In 2020/21, the grant was valued at £3.2 billion, which marks a 2.6% increase on the previous year. However, the organisations argue that it falls ‘far short’ of what is needed to restore cuts.
As a result, it is calling for the government to deliver an ‘increased, sustainable, long term funding settlement for local public health in England’ at the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.
For example, it lists a number of key focuses, including:
- Tobacco control – to reduce smoking uptake and support smokers to quit. Among the local authorities that have a budget for it, 35% have cut it between 2019/19 and 2019/20
- Being overweight or obese – it points out this is a risk factor for a range of diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and 13 types of cancer. Additionally, the most deprived areas have disproportionately higher rates of obesity compared with the least deprived.
- Alcohol treatment – to reduce alcohol harm; every £1 invested brings in £3 in social return. However, PHE estimates just one in five alcohol-dependent people in England are receiving treatment
- Mental health – the economic and social cost is estimated at £119 billion in the UK – and this was before the pandemic. Rates of depression have doubled since the onset of COVID-19, sparking calls for greater investment
‘The UK Government must place public health, prevention and health creation at the heart of policy and our nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,’ the statement reads.
‘As part of this, local authorities in England need an increased, long-term (multi-year) and sustainable funding settlement to ensure they can appropriately plan and deliver effective public health functions and services. Additionally, these should meet the changing needs of their populations and supports the evolving and increasingly important prevention agenda.
‘Based on analysis by the Health Foundation, this means restoring £0.9 billion per year in public health funding cuts at a minimum. It will not be possible to increase healthy life expectancy, reduce health inequalities and appropriately respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic if local authorities are unable to provide vital public health and preventative functions and services.’
Organisations supporting the statement include:
- Action on Sugar
- Cancer Research UK
- Faculty of Public Health
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