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Health Select Committee Report criticizes Coalition ‘nudge’ approach to public health

The House of Commons Health Select Committee has issued a report this week critiquing the Coalition Government’s planned changes to the public health system in England.  

The report welcomes the new statutory role of the Secretary of State for Health to protect the public from dangers to public health; however, it is critical of policies such as the Public Health Responsibility Deal that rely on voluntary agreements with business and other partners.

The Committee concludes it is “unconvinced that the new Responsibility Deal will be effective in resolving issues such as obesity and alcohol abuse and expect the Department of Health to set out clearly how progress will be monitored and tougher regulation applied if necessary. Those with a financial interest must not be allowed to set the agenda for health improvement”.

IAS was one of six leading health organisations to walk away from the Responsibility Deal negotiations in March 2011, arguing that the Deal would have no impact on reducing levels of alcohol harm in the UK, and prioritized the views of the alcohol industry over the health community.

Katherine Brown, Head of Research and Communications at IAS, says:

“This report reiterates our concerns that the Coalition Government is not doing enough to protect the public from alcohol harm.  Taking a ‘nudge’ approach to Britain’s drinking problem will not stop the tsunami of liver disease, cancer, or alcohol-related violence.

“There is a wealth of evidence to show that the most effective policies to tackle alcohol misuse address affordability, availability and promotion. With Britain’s booze bill topping £25bn each year, we can’t afford to rely on voluntary agreements with the drinks industry and policies that won’t work.”

To see a copy of the House of Commons Health Select Committee Report click here