Labour’s new approach to public health is a central part of our plan to improve families’ health and ensure the NHS remains affordable and sustainable in the century of the ageing society. Labour is pledging to take tougher action to protect children from commercial pressures and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke. Our local hospital in Basildon is currently unable to cope with the needs of residents because of coalition government restructuring of the NHS and cuts to frontline services including preventative support for people to be able to receive their care support needs from home.
Action on public health is essential not only to improve health and wellbeing but to ensure the NHS remains sustainable for the long term. For example, figures show that unless firm action is taken to halt the rise in obesity and diabetes, the cost of diabetes to the NHS will rise from £10 billion to £17 billion a year by 2035.
The action David Cameron promised, such as on cigarette packaging, hasn’t happened and it has been left to Labour to lead the debate in Opposition by winning the fight for a ban on smoking in cars with children. Labour has set out plans to kick-start public health policy back into life with a series of new measures.
But rather than a ‘finger-wagging’ approach, Labour will instead empower adults with information to make healthier choices and support them to get active. We will:
- Introduce maximum limits will be set on levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed substantially to children. And to support the population as a whole, Labour will pursue improvements to food labelling to help people better understand what they are eating, including working at EU level to introduce traffic-light labelling of packaged food.
- Take targeted action on high-strength, low-cost alcohol which fuels binge drinking and does most harm to health, with a range of options on both price and bottle-size being explored.
- Immediately introduce standardised cigarette packaging to halt the industry’s increasingly sophisticated methods of recruiting new, young smokers, and set a goal that children born in 2015 will become the first ‘smoke-free generation’.
As the Labour parliamentary candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock I will fight to keep our NHS in public ownership and challenge further privatisation plans from the Tories and Ukip.