On 15 March 2011 the UK Department of Health launched the Public Health Responsibility Deal with members of the voluntary sector, business, industry and the retail sector.
The ‘Deal’ is an attempt to get all parties involved, including industry and the individual, to work together to promote public health. This fact sheet looks at the history and background behind the Responsibility Deal, what it entails and the implications for the food and drink industry. To discuss this further, please contact Sue Keenan – firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)1386 842291
History and background
There has been concern about the state of the nation's health and wellbeing particularly rising levels of obesity, alcohol misuse and physical inactivity. As well as the impact on individuals' lives, these are associated with costs to both the NHS and the wider economy. In response to these concerns the Department of Health published a White Paper on 30 November 2010 Healthy Lives, Healthy People. This represents the UK Government's strategy for public health in England. An online consultation was also undertaken. The White Paper promises a new approach to changing adults' behaviour with the aim of reducing premature death, illness and costs to society. In particular, it stresses the importance of working collaboratively with business and the voluntary sector.
Central to this is the view that everyone has a role to play in improving public health, including government, business, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals themselves. It is recognised that businesses have a powerful influence on people's lives in a number of ways – as employers and through commercial and community actions. Businesses are seen as having the technical expertise to make healthier products and the marketing skills to influence purchasing habits. It was felt therefore that great benefits could be realised if these technical and marketing skills could be directed towards activities to encourage and enable people to make healthier choices. The Deal also aims to bring together a number of diverse organisations, including those from the public sector, commercial, non–governmental and academic organisations, to determine business activities that would assist in the achievement of public health goals. In this way the Responsibility Deal is seen as a way of harnessing the contribution that business can make to delivering the priorities for action to improve public health. The concept is not new as previously businesses, Government and public health groups have worked together on salt reduction. The Responsibility Deal intends to apply this process to a broader range of areas.
What does the Deal entail?
A plenary group chaired by the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley and including representatives from the business community, NGOs, public health organisations and local government oversees the development of the Public Health Responsibility Deal.
Alongside this are five networks which deal with the particular areas of food, alcohol, physical activity, health at work and behavioural change. One of the first tasks of the first four of these networks was the development of pledges for action related to their particular areas. The behaviour change network differs in that it is not concerned with developing pledges for action but rather provides expertise on behavioural science to the other networks: for example, on the negative compensatory behaviour when product offerings change and how to mitigate this.