Letter to Labour re 2015 election manifesto

Rt Hon Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party
cc The Rt Hon Andy Burnham, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Dear Mr Miliband

I am writing to you on behalf of our 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 of 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 current and recent administrations, the UK faces an increasing 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 on reading your Manifesto are:

1.    We welcome your manifesto pledge that Labour “health reforms will focus on prevention and early intervention”. You refer in your manifesto to stronger controls on unhealthy food and alcohol. While we welcome your manifesto pledge to set maximum limits on levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed to children,  we are concerned you do not also pledge to limit these maximum levels to food marketed to adults. The evidence is that exercise without moderation in dietary intake is much less effective in reducing and preventing obesity.

2.    You do not comment on how you aim to achieve this goal of prevention and early intervention. National public health services have been markedly reduced and current explicit support is for public health limited to local authority budgets – at risk of inequitable “postcode” approaches to disease prevention.

3.    While we welcome a pledge to “set a new national ambition to improve the uptake of physical activity”, it is disappointing not to see the obvious matching aim with regard to uptake of healthier diet.

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 your party proposes in support of a national, effective public health approach to prevent heart disease through better public awareness within both children and adults of what causes heart disease, 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 common forms of dementia.

Yours sincerely

Cardiovascular Research Trust