Letter to Plaid Cymru re 2015 election manifesto

Leanne Wood, Leader of
cc Elin Jones, Health Spokesperson

Dear Leanne Wood

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 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.    While we welcome your recognition that the NHS was created to preserve the health of the people, your manifesto focuses on the NHS as a national sickness service to treat disease and manage the ill. While these roles are extremely important, there is a striking absence of a national approach to disease prevention through active engagement in public health.

2.    We welcome your pledge to make it “easier to access exercise facilities and to get active”, promoting fitness and activity at all ages, with particular schemes to encourage teenage girls to take part in fitness programmes.

3.    However, although we welcome your pledge on measures to stop addiction to tobacco, to raise the price of alcohol and “to help reduce sugar intake, reduce obesity and combat associated health problems such as diabetes, …to support “a tax on sugary drinks and … work with manufacturers to reduce sugar in food and drink”, there is no mention of similar action on fats or salt, and no mention of promoting a healthy diet to match your pledge on active promotion of exercise.

Gains from effective public health measures can be very rapid and often well within the lifetime of a particular administration, for example in Scotland, 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