Writing exclusively for the Western Morning News, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt urges local authorities to set funding priorities for a healthier future.
The choices we make today have a real effect on our lives tomorrow. Nowhere is that more true than with our lifestyles, when choosing to smoke, drink and eat too much, or exercise too little, can have a big impact on our chances to lead a long, healthy and fulfilling life.
It is a sad fact that many thousands of people in this country – and across the Westcountry – die early because of their lifestyles. Each one of those premature deaths means devastated families, broken relationships and wasted potential.
I want as many people as possible to be able to look forward to an independent and active old age.
Today, we have given a huge boost to local authorities by announcing a significant investment in public health, with a national budget of £5.45 billion over two years.
For the first time we are giving your council the power, freedom and a protected budget to tackle public health issues such as alcohol abuse, smoking, and lack of exercise.
That, Western Morning News readers, is a massive war chest to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives. We are ring-fencing that money, so it can't be raided and used for other things. Make no mistake – that £5.45 billion will make a big difference.
Your area will receive more than £71 million. Your councils will be responsible for improving your health and this money will help develop better ways of doing this. These new arrangements mean that improving the health of their communities will be at the heart of everything councils do – from adult social care to transport, housing and planning, everything will be designed to get people healthier.
Exactly how they do that will be up to them. We want to give your councils in the South West freedom, not tie their hands by demanding they do certain things in a certain way. This means they will be able to focus on those issues that affect local communities the most.
This will put your local authority in a strong position to improve your health in the South West. I, Western Morning News readers, look forward to seeing the results.