Letter to Green Party re 2015 election manifesto

Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party
cc Jillian Creasy, Health Spokesperson

I am writing to you on behalf of healthy heart charity. We do not wish to take a party political view and are therefore writing to all party leaders to ask about your respective party’s commitment to improving public health approaches to preventing serious disorders of the heart and circulation: these cause ~ half the adult deaths in the UK.

We are writing now, having considered how your manifesto addresses this issue, and in the light of the fresh report from the Economist Intelligence Unit on the low UK ranking for standardized health spend and doctors per 1000 population compared with many benchmark international economies (https://data.oecd.org).

Despite efforts of recent administrations, the UK faces an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other serious disorders linked to preventable risk of heart and circulatory disease. Urgent, effective preventive action is needed, with expected benefits for personal and national health and wealth, coupled to eased pressures on the NHS.

Our concerns from reading your Manifesto are:

1.    You only mention the term public health in this context of your transport policy and in relation to risks from fracking.
2.    We welcome your pledge to use of pricing to discourage intake of unhealthy foods and alcohol and thus cross-subsidise healthy foods. We also welcome your statement “So if we promote healthy eating … good free school meals and active transport, we will be healthier”. However, in the face of the current obesity epidemic, it is not self-evident that the general public will engage: how will you as a party make promotion of these aims effective?
3.    While we welcome your pledge to introduce a levy on tobacco and alcohol to fund health care, how will you as a party resolve the perverse incentive not to legislate as effectively as possible to ban use of tobacco and maintain alcohol consumption within safe limits, with health care made dependent on this revenue stream?

4.    You comment that professionals in primary care “can carry out checks and give advice or treatment to people who, for instance, are stressed, obese, inactive, or alcohol or nicotine dependent”. However primary care services are under increasing pressure to be where most chronic disease management is undertaken. Primary care professionals have little capacity to support prevention of heart disease in the currently healthy or asymptomatic general population with undiagnosed conditions (especially hypertension, raised cholesterol, diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease) that predispose to cardiovascular disease.

Gains from effective public health measures can be very rapid and often well within the lifetime of a particular administration, for example the 20% reduction in heart attack rates within one year of introducing a compulsory ban on smoking in public places.

We therefore ask what actions you party proposes in support of a national, effective public health approach to preventing heart disease through better public awareness within both children and adults of what causes heart disease and why to bother to change behavior, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease and how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

These efforts will help both to prevent serious heart and circulatory conditions, as well as other serious disorders, including cancer, joint disease, and vascular dementia.

Yours sincerely

Cardiovascular Research Trust