What does it normally do?
The General Lifestyle Survey measures health and wellbeing of the population by surveying around 15,000 household across the country to take a snapshot of health, living conditions and habits such as alcohol and smoking. This can then be used by several governmental departments such as the Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions, Scottish government and HM Revenue and Customs to affect policy and funding and for monitoring purposes.
So why is this important?
The coalition government’s big focus is refinement of public health strategies for improving health outcomes across the board. Cuts to this survey will prevent monitoring of these strategies, disregarding the government’s policies and preventing assessment for areas of improvement. This further heightens the hypocrisy of the Department of Health who have recently entered into agreements with both the alcohol industry and food manufacturers. There are also suggestions that the funding cut could break the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
How do the government want to change public health?
Currently public health policies are managed by the Department for Health and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) with a small input from PCTs and local authorities. With the NHS reforms, SHAs will be scrapped along with PCTs, leaving the local health authorities to manage the strategies for their small region alone.
For some small select at risk populations, this may be appropriate; but for planning national campaigns to cut risky behaviour, reduce the prevalence of a disease or educate the population of a health threat such as pandemic flu a national or large regional coordinator is required. But as with many other things, the coalition wants to pass this responsibility further down the ladder and be completely unaccountable for any decisions made.
How will it affect you?
No-one really knows the answer yet. However, there are several outcomes that would be detrimental to health country-wide.
- Increase in health inequalities
- Increases in obesity and sedentary lifestyles
- Increases in binge drinking a cigarette smoking
- Increase in prevalence of communicable diseases such as TB, HIV and Hepatitis B
If this were to occur then these would eventually create a greater cost to the NHS than implementing the survey at £300,000/year.
A piece of news that could change the way that your health is managed as a result of government cuts coupled with NHS reforms. Please help us to do something about protecting the health of our society and get involved.