Woman kneels on trampoline with bouncing child. Photograph by Jade Reynolds-Hemmings

Urban health

Creating healthier urban places: our response to the new government’s health mission

11 July 2024
8 min read

In the run-up to the 2024 general election, we outlined the immediate steps that the next government should take to act on the interconnected drivers of health inequity. But with a new Labour government now setting out its policy priorities, it’s clear transformational change will be needed over the next five years to achieve its commitment to halve the life expectancy gap between the richest and poor regions.

It’s very positive that the new government has prioritised tackling health inequalities, which have continued to grow across the country – particularly in inner-city areas like Lambeth and Southwark. Indications around the new health mission are also encouraging and mirror our approach – working collaboratively across departments and sectors and recognising the many factors which impact our health.

The evidence is clear – 80% of the factors that influence our health sit outside the healthcare system. To succeed, the government’s mission will need to ensure the places we live, work and play are as healthy as they can be. Crucially, the mission will need to involve not just businesses, local authorities and NGOs, but also communities: we know that solutions are most effective and equitable when they are developed with the communities that have most at stake.

Our team gives their thoughts on the change needed to deliver healthier, more equitable places across the country:

Barbara Reichwein – Programme Director, multiple long-term conditions programme

“7.4 million people in the UK feel heavily burdened by domestic bills and credit commitments. This financial strain has profound impacts on the physical and mental health of working age adults. Addressing this stark reality will require bold, comprehensive action on multiple levels.

We’re asking the next government to increase funding for holistic, community-based money and debt advice services. These need to be accessible to people from marginalised groups, particularly Black and minoritised communities – who are more than twice as likely to need debt advice.”

Barbara Reichwein

Kamna Muralidharan – Programme Director, children’s mental health programme

“Over the next five years, the new government has an opportunity to improve children’s mental health by addressing chronic poverty – one of the most important causes of distress in young people’s lives. We welcome the government’s manifesto pledge of a comprehensive strategy to reduce child poverty in the UK. This strategy must address how children and their families experience poverty, including housing, employment, education, and childcare costs.

To succeed, the strategy will need to review the policies that trap families in poverty, including the two-child limit and the benefit cap. Abolishing the two-child limit alone would lift 300,000 children out of poverty and reduce the depth of poverty for 800,000 more.”

Kamna Muralidharan

Nikita Sinclair – Co-Programme Director, children’s health and food programme

“At the core of the government’s manifesto is a pledge to raise the healthiest generation of children in our history. We fully support this vision, but such bold ambition requires bold policymaking to improve children’s unequal access to healthy, affordable food.

We welcome indications that government will work with industry to reform how our food is produced, marketed and sold to reduce the flood of unhealthy options on our streets. Success will require joined-up action: mandating companies to report on the healthiness of their sales, supporting the convenience sector to stock healthier, affordable options in all communities, and building on the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to encourage reformulation of unhealthy foods.”

Nikita Sinclair

Matt Towner – Programme Director, health effects of air pollution programme

“Acting on air pollution wasn’t a headline in the government’s manifesto, but an effective health mission requires an ambitious approach to tackling the greatest environmental risk to people’s health. The new government can ensure everyone in Britian breathes clean air by supporting businesses to reduce their polluting emissions. A crucial first step would be to introduce a tiered business rates relief system to incentivise businesses to report on and reduce their polluting emissions.

By backing businesses to transition to a sustainable, low-pollution economy, the government can future-proof the NHS and make sure everyone has the same opportunity to live a healthy life.”

Matt Towner

The next five years are an opportunity for the new government to make cities healthier places for everyone that lives in them – no matter the circumstances of their lives.

Peter Babudu

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If you’d like to find out more about how we can work together to improve urban health, get in touch.

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