Tackling health inequalities: the case for investment in the wider public health workforce

Title of driver: Tackling health inequalities: the case for investment in the wider public health workforce

Source: Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)

Link to main document

Publication format: PDF

Date of publication: June 2014

Summary of driver: A proposal to engage professionals working outside the public health sector, to harness their skills and motivation in order to positively impact public health in their communities. The report argues that through the promotion of healthy behaviour and encouragement of healthier lifestyles, health inequalities within local communities can be addressed which could in turn help to reduce the national incidence of lifestyle-related disease and safeguard resources in the NHS.

Key features of driver:

  • The report highlights the pressures that are placed on the welfare system, the economy and social justice, with a cost to the NHS alone of around £5.5 billion (Frontier Economics. Estimating the Costs of Health Inequalities: A Report Prepared for the Marmot Review. London: Frontier Economics Ltd, 2010);
  • The ‘wider public health workforce’ is discussed and defined as: any organisation or individual, who is not a professionally qualified public health specialist, but has the ability or opportunity to positively impact public health;
  • 5 health initiatives are discussed and their effectiveness assessed in the context of: health outcomes, social benefits  and financial costs, benefits and sustainability) in tackling health inequality and encouraging healthier lifestyles: (1) health trainer service (funded community-based), (2) health champions initiative (community volunteers), (3) Making Every Contact Count’ (health promotion within organisations), the role of non-health professionals and (4) the creation of ‘healthy settings’ (schools and universities);
  • The report comments that each stakeholder group (trainers, champions and clients) report a wide range of benefits that extend beyond simple improvements to physical health – improved mental well being, increased social interaction, higher levels of community cohesion and improved career prospects;
  • Barriers to achieving change are described with 2 areas of particular concern being: the ability of the workforce to integrate with ‘hard-to-reach’ groups and the need for greater research  particularly into the extent to which behaviour change is sustained and the cost-effectiveness of programmes.

Primary audience: Local Government Authorities

Impact on library policy/practice:

  • Opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues in Public Health England to raise awareness of the wider public health workforce initiatives and communicate this to healthcare staff in primary and secondary care, for them to promote to patients and families;
  • Opportunity to liaise with colleagues in public libraries to offer an evidence-base (literature, displays, talks) for their library users; showing how positive health outcomes and improved quality of life can be achieved by small changes in lifestyle e.g. better diet, regular exercise, engaging in community recreation and health education schemes;
  • Commitment by library and knowledge service managers and resource librarians to incorporate a selection of health promotion and ‘healthier living’ resources into library stock and promote widely within our NHS organisations;
  • Support Health Education England events in our regions e.g. Health Education Week to raise awareness of healthier lifestyle choices which can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our local communities; families, friends and neighbours.

Date last updated: September 2014

Due for review: September 2015

Group member responsible: ME

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