We are at a critical time for public health, with the nation’s health getting poorer and inequalities widening.

Life expectancy has stalled, people are dying early from preventable diseases and more workers than ever are dropping out of the labour market due to ill health. Alongside this, there has been a failure to adopt a public health approach to policymaking and invest in prevention.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

With the UK heading to the polls this July, we’re calling on the next government to implement preventative measures to build a healthier and more productive future for all.

To do this, we need action in three key areas.

Health is wealth: tackling inequalities

Health inequalities are causing disease, poverty, and mortality rates to rise. Tackling the drivers of ill health by focussing on those facing the greatest inequalities should be at the centre of the next government’s agenda. We propose:

  • Investing in the Public Health Grant, which has been cut by 26%, to prioritise prevention services locally.
  • Lifting the two-child benefit cap and creating a national child poverty strategy to help hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
  • Expanding access to nutritious food for school children through the Free School Meal Programme (FSM), National School Breakfast Programme, and the Healthy Start Voucher scheme, and building a food system where healthy foods are affordable and easily available.
  • Implementing the planned Tobacco and Vapes Bill and introducing Minimum Unit Pricing to reduce preventable deaths.

Utilising the wider public health workforce

To reduce pressure on the NHS, we need a wealth of people doing public health. From physios to pest controllers, RSPH has identified 1.5 million individuals within the wider public health workforce who can help create a prevention network. The next government can do this by:

  • Having a public health qualified person in every setting to positively impact over 5 million people annually and bring prevention into the heart of our communities.
  • Creating a national workforce strategy to fully harness the wider public health workforce to tie together industry, public health and the wider workforce.

Creating healthy places to work

More people than ever are leaving the workforce due to ill-health, which is costing the economy around £150 billion a year. By improving the health of the workplace, employers can realise the benefits for all. We suggest:

  • Incentivising businesses to provide core wellbeing services at work, occupational sick pay and occupational health support.
  • Providing employees with flexible working arrangements, improved pay, and better training for line managers on supporting staff who have health conditions.
  • Ensuring people who aren’t well enough to work aren’t being sanctioned, stigmatised or plunged into poverty.

We know what works, and we know that the solutions exist. With investment in preventative services, the next government can prioritise public health and ensure a prosperous future for all.