Page last updated at 09:31 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Politicians urged to tackle public health

children queuing up for school dinner
Free school meals for all under 16s is called for by public health experts

Public health experts have called for a ban on smoking in cars with children, free school meals for under 16s and chlamydia tests for all new students.

It is part of a 12-step wish-list the Royal Society of Public Health and UK Faculty of Public Health want the political parties adopt.

Introducing the measures would boost the nation's health, they said.

Both the government and Tories refused to commit themselves to the policies, but said public health was a priority.

Preventing ill-health with firm policies such as the smoking ban in cars has got to be right up there at the top of the next government's agenda.
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health

In a joint statement, the leading public health doctors drawn from the Royal Society of Public Health and UK Faculty of Public Health, also urged politicians to improve the nations diet though an end to junk food advertising on television before the 2100 watershed, a ban on trans-fats and compulsory food labelling on all pre-packaged food.

The number of cycle lanes and cycle racks should increase by a quarter within five years and there should be more investment in school sports facilities and playing fields, they said.

Other proposals include presumed consent for organ donation and a 20mph limit in built up areas.

A minimum price for alcohol - an issue raised by the health select committee in a recent report but so far rejected by ministers - was also included in the list.

"Political will"

"We are facing unprecedented challenges to public health," says Professor Richard Parish, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health

"The time to act is now."

He argues that what is needed is "political will, rather than resources".

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, added: "Preventing ill-health with firm policies such as the smoking ban in cars has got to be right up there at the top of the next government's agenda."

"Any party that claims to be the party of the NHS has to commit to promoting and protecting health as well as healthcare."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Public health in this country is already at the top of the agenda, and prevention has been the mantra of public health and the NHS for some time."

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley added: "I welcome this push to put public health at the top of the political agenda. It is something we have long argued for.

"We will support any ideas that are affordable, cost effective and for which there is an evidence base. Focusing on public health will save the NHS money in the long run."



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SEE ALSO
MPs demanding alcohol clampdown
08 Jan 10 |  Health
Alcohol toll 'could cripple NHS'
01 Jan 10 |  Health
Passive smoking 'global threat'
09 Dec 09 |  Health
'No home smoking rise' after ban
23 Nov 09 |  Health
'Indifference' spreads chlamydia
08 Jan 10 |  Health
GPs not promoting chlamydia tests
16 Oct 09 |  Health

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Times Online Tory plan to label alcohol more clearly - 1 hr ago
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Mirror.co.uk Minimum drink pricing 'won't work' - 1 hr ago
The Independent Johnson: Pricing won't save alcohol problems - 2 hrs ago
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