Efforts by the UK government to encourage the uptake of a healthy lifestyle

People’s lifestyles have a major impact on their health and wellbeing. Eating and drinking more healthily, becoming more physically active, and receiving appropriate health support at work, have the potential to transform lives. Physical inactivity, alcohol misuse, and obesity cost the NHS billions every year and there’s no doubt that they contribute to organisations’ sickness absence figures too.

The Government’s overall strategy for public health is set out in the White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People. The White Paper makes clear that everyone has a part to play in improving public health, including Government, business, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and individuals themselves. The Government’s approach to improving people’s health is based on:

  • positively promoting ‘healthier’ behaviours and lifestyles;
  • adapting the environment to make healthy choices easier;
  • strengthening self-esteem, confidence, and personal responsibility.

Based on the premise that industry can help to contribute to public health goals, the Public Health Responsibility Deal was announced by the UK Government in March 2011. Partners signed up to the Responsibility Deal have committed to take action to improve public health, although this action in no way replaces Government national policy or communication of public health messages. This action is expressed as a series of pledges covering food, alcohol, physical activity and health at work:

  • Core commitments: these define the scope, purpose, and high-level ambitions of the Responsibility Deal.
  • Collective pledges: the collectively-agreed action that members of a given sector will take in support of a particular core commitment.
  • Individual pledges: these are specific to a particular organisation or sub-group within a sector, and have been developed by them and approved by the relevant network chairs and the Department of Health.
  • Supporting pledges: these underpin all the collective and individual pledges. They define the operating principles and processes of the Responsibility Deal.

The signatories of the Public Health Responsibility Deal are mainly large organisations, including supermarket chains, food outlets, and food and drink manufacturers and retailers. However, all organisations, however small, have an important part to play in encouraging their employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and looking out for their mental and physical health. Investing in the health of your staff makes sound commercial sense in terms of business performance and productivity. For help achieving this, call the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.

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