Memorandum from the Department of Health
PREPARATIONS FOR THE WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE
What input has the Department of Health had to
the UK preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development?
The co-ordination of the input
from the Department of Health;
The Department of Health's relationship
with MISC 18;
Papers/strategies/other work that
the Department of Health has been involved in;
Whether the Department has actively
publicised the preparations for the World Summit and its own involvement?
The Department of Health is not a member of
MISC 18. It does, however, receive papers for information and
keeps closely in touch with the developing agenda.
Whilst there is no major, direct health interest
in the main UK objectives for the World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD), lack of access to safe water and inadequate
sanitation are recognised causes of ill-health and disease in
the developing world. The Department of Health may, therefore,
provide technical advice to the relevant lead Departments on such
recognised environment-related health risks.
The Department of Health can also contribute
to the UK preparations for the World Summit through the WSSD Inter-Departmental
Group which provides a forum in which to express views on, and
receive feedback about events and preparations for the World Summit.
We have been copied papers and will comment and contribute on
health related issues if appropriate.
The Department of Health also contributes extensively
to other international fora and work programmes on health aspects
of sustainable development. For example, the Third Ministerial
Conference on Environment and Health Conference took place in
London in June 1999 and included discussion on local projects
linking environmental health and social issues. It concluded that
environmental health and sustainable development are "inextricably
linked and require a long term commitment to local implementation".
It also endorsed the role of public participation. The next Ministerial
conference will take place in Budapest in 2004. The emerging agenda
for the 2004 conference is "the Future of Our Children"
within the broader context of sustainable development. The Department
of Health represents the UK on the WHO/UNECE European Environmental
and Health Committee which is carrying forward the work programme
from the 1999 Ministerial Conference and is directing the plans
for the 2004 conference.
The Department works closely with other UK departments
such as DEFRA and DTLR on international work related to sustainable
development such as that of the G8.
Which UK sustainable development indicators does
the Department of Health have lead responsibility for and which
other indicators do the Department's policies particularly impact
Health is one of the 15 key headline indicators
in the Government's Sustainable Development Strategy for the UK.
The indicator is "expected healthy years of life". The
indicator is due to be updated in August 2002. Further details
are available from the Government's First Annual Report (2000)
Review of progress towards sustainable development (http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk)
and in the second annual report (2001) due to be published in
March. The Department has contributed to both these reports.
Now, for the first time, the Government has
set inequalities targets. The Government gave a commitment in
"The NHS Plan" to establish national health inequalities
targets which would narrow the gap in childhood and throughout
life between socio-economic groups and between the most deprived
areas and the rest of the country. This Department has developed
two national targetsto reduce the gap in mortality between
manual groups and the population as a whole; and to reduce the
gap between areas with the lowest life expectancy at birth and
the population as a whole. These were announced in February 2001.
The NHS Plan builds on and develops the 10 year
strategy for improving health and tackling health inequalities
set out in Our Healthier Nation (1999). Along with other
work in major areas such as disease prevention and health promotion,
it will contribute to current UK life expectancy and healthy life
expectancy and help tackle areas such as poverty and social exclusion.
It will also contribute to tackling other issues such as lack
of educational attainment, unemployment and discrimination.
The Department of Health, through its PSA targets,
contributes either directly or indirectly to at least 6 of the
15 Sustainable Development headline indicators
a healthy population will be able
to contribute more to GDP through improved employment potential
(H1total output of the economy);
the effective delivery of appropriate
care eg improving educational attainment for children in care
or increasing participation in drug treatment schemes (H3employment);
providing high quality rehabilitation
to older people to help them live as independently as possible;
improving life chances of children in care through improving educational
attainment ( H4poverty and social exclusion and H5education);
improving the overall health of the
population through all policies (H6health);
improving life chances for children
in care through giving care and guidance to narrow the gap between
the proportion of children in care who are cautioned (H8crime).
What systems does the Department of Health have
in place to monitor progress on how far the Department's policies
are contributing to UK progress on sustainable development and
the issues that were mapped out in Agenda 21 after the Rio Earth
Summit in 1992?
The Department of Health has contributed fully
to the development of the Government's sustainable development
strategy and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public
Health, Yvette Cooper, helped launch the UK strategy in 1999 alongside
the Environment Minister, Michael Meacher. The Department's Green
Minister participates fully in ENV(G) meetings and we have developed
our own departmental strategy on sustainable development and environmental
issues. The Department's activities are reported in the Green
Ministers' Annual Reports which record the Department's (and its
Agencies) activities (http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk).
On Agenda 21 issues, we understand that a large
majority of local authorities have responded well to the commitments
made at Rio in 1992 and the Prime Minister's target in 1997. Over
90 per cent of authorities in England now have plans in place.
The NHS Plan will significantly strengthen the
links between health and local authority planners. The Plan recognises
that the wider determinants of health call for greater partnership
between health and local services. The NHS will play a full part
in the Government's National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal
and will help develop Local Strategic Partnerships into which
health, education, employment and other causes of social exclusion.
There will be new single, integrated public
health groups across the NHS located in the Government Offices
for the Regions. They will enable regeneration of regions to embrace
health as well as environment, transport and inward investment.