Britain is in terrible shape says Sir Michael Marmot, as 100 experts convene to discuss wellbeing and physical activity

By Liz Terry    10 Sep 2023

Over 100 experts in health and wellbeing gathered in central London yesterday (Friday 8 September) at the invitation of Kim Leadbeater MP, to discuss how a future Labour government in the UK could deliver policies for a “healthier happier and more productive Britain.”

Leadbeater, MP for the Batley and Spen constituency, organised the event as a follow-up to her recent strategy document – Healthy Britain: A new approach to health and wellbeing policy – published by The Fabian Society.

The report makes the case that, just as it has become commonplace to evaluate policy through a ‘green lens’ to determine environmental sustainability, a ‘health and wellbeing lens’ should also be applied during decision making.

“By adopting a comprehensive strategy towards improving the health and wellbeing of the country and its citizens, Labour can offer a fresh and positive vision for Britain’s future,” Leadbeater said.

“Where prevention and early intervention take priority; and where investing time, energy and resources in people’s health and wellbeing helps them as individuals, supports families, communities and businesses and helps us all become more prosperous, more productive and happier.”

The London event saw speakers including Professor Sir Michael Marmot, shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting and former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell.

Streeting said “It’s been a long time since the UK has had a government seriously committed to health and wellbeing and that as a result. Britain is paying a serious price for inactivity.”

He said tackling these challenges will require an effort across government, in partnership with the third sector and business, saying “if there’s one word that suns up Starmerism, it’s prevention”.

Marrmot said: “Health and wellbeing should be at the heart of everything we ask politicians to do.”

Referring to his Marmot Review into a fair society and health lives, he said that since it was published in 2010, when Labour had just left office, inequality in health has increased and life expectancy outside London had fallen. He warned that “Britain is in terrible shape” and that “the next Labour government must create a society in which everyone can flourish.”

Other speakers included Anneliese Dodd, shadow women and equalities minister, Paul Gately, professor of exercise and obesity at Leeds Beckett University and Lord Richard Lanyard, co-founder of Action for Happiness.

Commenting after the event, Leadbeater said: “I’m delighted my report has helped stimulate such a wide-ranging and detailed discussion about what needs to be done to make Britain not just healthier and happier, but also more productive and more equal.

“There are huge challenges facing an incoming Labour government and nobody is suggesting that fixing all these problems will be quick or easy, but across the party we are doing the hard work and the hard thinking in opposition that will prepare us for the task ahead.”


Healthy Britain: A new approach to health and wellbeing policy

The proposed policies in the report include:

• Making physical education a core subject at secondary schools and having trained PE specialists in all primary schools.

• Putting physical literacy and wellbeing at the heart of a ‘curriculum for life’.

• Supporting positive mental health from an early age and throughout life.

• Increasing social prescribing and curbing the over-prescribing of drugs and medication.

• Enforcing legally binding standards for healthy homes and town and country planning.

• Giving communities the power to promote social wellbeing locally.

• Establishing ring-fenced budgets for active travel schemes.

• Offering incentives for businesses to support a healthy workforce.

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