Healthy New Towns Takes Novel Approach to Health Corrosive Urban Areas

That British Medical Association has supported a new NHS programme intended at improving nutrition across the nation.

The so-called Healthy New Towns programme aims to put health at the heart of new neighbourhoods and towns across the country.

According to research, the UK loses 140 million working days due to ill-health every single year, and a significant proportion of this can be attempted to poor diet and other preventable causes.

Symptomatic of the decline in general health is the diabetes epidemic in the UK. The cost of this condition to the NHS is already £10 billion annually, and projections suggest that this will significantly increase in the coming years.

With this in mind, Healthy New Towns is intended to deliver a real health and financial impact, while delivering on key aims set out in the Five Year Forward View.

As part of the programme, five long-term partnerships will initially be selected from across the country, covering housing developments of different sizes, from smaller projects up to those over 10,000 units.

Each of these selected sites will then benefit from a programme of support, which will focus on global expertise in spatial and urban design, national sponsorship and increased local flexibility.

Their intention is to build new and cohesive communities that support physical and mental well-being.

The nature of the existing urban landscape is such that obesity, diabetes and other forms of intrinsic ill-health almost inherently flourish.

Some sources have described these heavily built up environment as obesogenic.

It is hoped that the Healthy New Towns programming can help create a healthier urban culture in which exercise is part of the everyday experience in particular.

Additionally, the technological revolution means that it is increasingly possible for people to access sophisticated medical information, and even treatment, within their own homes.

So a central pillar of the Healthy New Towns program is to help provide community health and social care services by designing and investing in the use of new digital technologies.

Independence within and outside of the home is considered to be an important principle of this initiative.

The British Medical Association has already indicated its support for, and enthusiasm about, this new programme.

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the former Children’s Commissioner, Office offered backing for the scheme at the Care Innovation Expo in Manchester.

Aynlsey-Green particularly emphasised the potential of the scheme to make a positive difference in young people’s lives.

“This is a fantastic initiative. I have been to some dismal modern estates with nothing for young people to do and I would urge that we build developments with children’s health at their hearts,” Aynlsey-Green stated.

NHS England, with support from Public Health England, has invited leading local authorities, housing associations and the construction sector to identify development projects where they would like NHS support in creating health-promoting new towns and neighbourhoods in England.

 
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MHRA told it can lead global drive to improve public health

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) can do more to place the UK at the forefront of a global drive to improve public health, according to a new report.

That’s the view of a new ‘Triennial Review’ of the agency which was tasked with investigating whether it remains fit for purpose and continues to deliver value for money for the UK taxpayer.

“There are some interesting challenges ahead, both domestically and globally, but the review has validated that we are well prepared to enthusiastically tackle them head on”, said MHRA chief executive Dr Ian Hudson.“Indeed, as the review highlights, we have already identified many of the areas where we can work smarter and strive for greater collaboration and efficiency, and we are already actively seeking improvements through our 2015/16 Business Plan.

“On behalf of all those who work in the agency, I strongly welcome the clear endorsement in the review of the agency’s fitness for purpose for the critical public health work that we do.”

The Triennial Review took place between November 2014 and May 2015 and was led by a small designated team within the Department of Health team working under the direction of an independent sponsor and project board.

 
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Obesity and drug problems included in review of sickness benefit

People who are obese or have alcohol or drug problems resulting in them not being able to work could have their sickness benefits cut if they refuse treatment, says David Cameron.

The PM has launched a wide reaching review of the current system because some 100,000 people with such conditions claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, he says, this fails to encourage people with long-term, treatable issues to get medical help. There is currently no requirement for people with such health problems to undertake treatment.

ESA was brought in during 2008 in place of incapacity benefit and income support and is paid when someone has illness or disability. It does require claimants to undergo a work capability assessment to assess the degree to which their illness or disability impacts their ability to work.

Around 60% of the 2.5 million people claiming the ESA benefit have been on in for now for more than 5 years.

 

BACK TO WORK

The PM has asked Prof Dame Carol Black, already an adviser to the Department of Health, to carry out the review of policies and allowances.

Whilst launching the proposed review, Mr Cameron commented “Some have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment. In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed – but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice. It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.”

Mark Harper, Disabilities Minister, said people who were overweight or had alcohol or drug problems needed treatment to get back to work.

Dame Carol said she was keen to “overcome the challenges” posed by the current system. “These people, in addition to their long-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society.”

 

NOT SUPPORTED BY ALL

However, the proposed review and policy changes have been challenged from many quarters.

Campaigners said it was “naive” to think overweight people did not want to change and Labour said the policy would no nothing to help people off benefits.

Susannah Gilbert, co-founder of online obesity support group Big Matters, claimed the proposed policy changes “wouldn’t be feasible”. She went on to say: “I think it’s naive to think that people don’t want to change their life. Many of them have tried every diet under the sun and they still have a weight problem, so to think they don’t want to have help isn’t true.”

The Labour MP, Kate Green, who’s also shadow minister for disabled people, pointed out that the numbers claiming sickness benefits had risen under the present Government. She said: “David Cameron’s government has stripped back funding for drug support programmes and their Work Programme has helped just 7% of people back to work, so it is clear the Tory plan isn’t working. Today’s announcement does nothing to help people off benefits and into work while the government continues to fail to clamp down on tax avoiders and offshore tax havens.”

 

 
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