The UK. 2017. The health gap between the richest and poorest children for obesity has widened every year for the past nine years.

A quarter of the most deprived 10 year olds are now obese, more than twice the number of their least deprived peers.

And it’s not just obesity. Across many aspects of health, inequalities are widening. The most deprived can now expect at least 19 fewer healthy life years than their most affluent counterparts.

Fast forward 10, 20, 50, 100 years. Where are we headed? What are the consequences for our health, for us as individuals and as a society, if we keep on this trajectory?

RSPH and the Health Foundation want your help. We want talented creative writers with an interest in health and wellbeing to help us imagine a dystopian future (near or far) where the consequences of the social and commercial determinants of health are played out.

The story should shed light on the lack of choice people currently face about the factors that shape their health and wellbeing such as work, education, housing, social networks and communities. These factors are largely outside of individual control and are influenced by political, social, economic, environmental and cultural factors.

If this idea captures your imagination, we would like you to submit a short story of up to 5,000 words (no minimum) to the Health: from here to where? short story competition by Sunday 11 June 2017.

We would like the stories to convey the implications of not taking action now on the factors that shape health and wellbeing.

Entries will be judged by an expert panel of authors and health experts, based on their imagination, readability and thought-provoking nature. Judging panel to be announced.

The winning author will receive £1,500, while a selection of highly-commended entrants will receive £500 each. The winning and highly commended stories will be published in electronic form and a limited edition print booklet illustrated by artist Thomas Moore. The author will also have the opportunity to take part in press and publicity around the competition.

Judging panel

Jo Bibby, Director of Strategy at the Health Foundation

Jo is responsible for developing and leading the Foundation’s Healthier Lives strategy to address the wider social and commercial determinants of health.

Nicola Close, Chief Executive of the Association of Directors of Public Health

Nicola became the first Chief Executive of the Association of Directors of Public Health in June 2007 and has worked in public health for more than twenty years. She has a broad experience including mathematics, philosophy, education, IT, research, clinical governance, management and public health.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH

Shirley is an experienced voluntary sector leader in both the UK and the USA and has also held non-executive positions in both countries in the public and voluntary sectors.

Julia Golding, author

Julia is a former British diplomat, Oxfam policy advisor and now multi award-winning writer for children and young adults.

Sarah Hall, author and poet

Sarah is an award-winning author and poet. Her third novel, The Carhullan Army, published in 2007, was listed as one of The Times 100 Best Books of the Decade.

Catherine Riedel, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Health Foundation

Catherine is responsible for developing and implementing engaging integrated marketing campaigns, and leads communications on the healthy lives strategy.

Duncan Stephenson, Director of External Affairs at RSPH

Duncan has responsibility for developing RSPH’s voice on public health issues. He has more than ten years’ experience in campaigns, media relations and public affairs working mainly on health and wellbeing issues.

Isla Whateley, representing the Young Health Movement

Isla is studying for an MA (Hons) in Social Anthropology with Development at the University of Edinburgh. A former member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, she is also a writer and blogger with interests in human rights, politics, international development and mental health.

Justin Varney, National Lead for Adult Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England

Justin leads Public Health England's work to improve the health and wellbeing of working age adults and reduce health inequalities in this group. He trained in General Practice before specialising in Public Health Medicine.

Sridhar Venkatapuram, Senior Lecturer in Global Health and Philosophy at King’s College London

Sridhar has been at the forefront of health ethics and global health for over twenty years. His research and expertise is in global/public health, human rights, ethics and political philosophy.

How to enter

Please note that this competition has now closed for entries.

Hints and tips

  • Read this document before writing. This short briefing will give you a basic understanding of the social determinants of health, and some of the issues you might like to explore. We want to build an understanding of the social determinants of health. How do the contexts in which we live, learn, work and play shape our health and restrict or enable our opportunity to live healthy lives?
  • Through this short story, we would like to imaginatively explore a future blighted by the rising rates of avoidable ill-health we see today, while reflecting that this future scenario is not inevitable.
  • The target audience for the story is young adults (14+). We would like the story to inspire young people to think about and question what this potential future means to them and to draw attention to the implications of our failure to recognise and challenge the external factors that diminish our individual opportunity to lead healthy lives by illustrating the very personal losses people may experience and the crucial part that our health plays in social cohesion and stability. The story should also appeal to an older audience.
  • While increasing demand may well make the NHS unsustainable in its current form, this is an issue that is already at the forefront of political consciousness. We would like you to go beyond this, to think not about healthcare but about health in a wider sense, addressing the root cause of the problem.
  • The Health: from here to where? competition forms part of a wider creative, social project being undertaken by RSPH and the Health Foundation to reframe the public and political dialogue around health. We want to help to move the conversation away from one which sees ill-health as a costly burden, to one focused on prevention of avoidable disease and the creation of health as a social, cultural and economic asset, which underpins social progress and prosperity that should be shared by all, not the few.

Terms and conditions

  • The competition is open to both published and unpublished authors of any age.
  • The competition is not open to RSPH or Health Foundation staff, or their immediate family.
  • Entrants may submit one story only.
  • The story must be submitted in English.
  • Stories not within the specified word limit (up to 5,000 words - no minimum) will not be accepted.
  • The story must be entirely the entrant’s own original creation and must not infringe upon the right or copyright of any other person or entity.
  • The story must not have been previously published in print, online or broadcast.
  • You retain the copyright to your story as its author. However, by submitting it as an entry to the competition, you grant RSPH and the Health Foundation an unrestricted, non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide license to publish your story both in electronic format and hard copy, and to use your name to identify you as the author.