A new public health body with a focus on prevention to help reduce the pressure on overstretched NHS services has been launched.
The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) will work to tackle “unacceptable” health inequalities across the country and combat the top preventable risk factors for poor health, including obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption, the Government said.
It comes as Public Health England (PHE) is replaced, with the OHID taking on responsibility for health improvement and the new UK Health Security Agency focusing on health protection.
The Government said the OHID would be “the driving force” to “level up” the nation’s health, adding that men in the most deprived areas are expected to die nearly 10 years younger – seven for women – than those in affluent areas.
Smoking is also more prevalent in deprived areas and one of the leading causes of inequalities in life expectancy, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said, while obesity is almost 8% more prevalent in the most deprived areas.
The new body aims to prevent illness before it develops and save significant money and resource, the DHSC said.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The pandemic has laid bare the health disparities we face not only as a country, but as communities and individuals.
“This must change and this body marks a new era of preventative healthcare to help people live healthier, happier and longer lives.
“The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will be the driving force across government, supported by communities, academics, industry and employers, to level up the health of our nation, which will reduce the pressure on our NHS and care services.”
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, will provide professional leadership to the OHID.
He said: “Health inequalities in England are stark and they are challenging to address but it is important we do so.
“People across the country can live in better health for longer. OHID will support people to do so with an evidence-based approach.
“Reducing health inequalities and keeping people in better health for longer is in everyone’s interest – it is good for the individual, families, society, the economy and NHS.
“That’s why OHID will work collaboratively across the national, regional and local levels as well as with the NHS, academia, the third sector, scientists, researchers and industry.”
PHE was formed in 2013 under the Government’s NHS reforms laid out in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.