Tue 25 Jun 2019
‘Prevention is better than cure’. When it comes to public health, never has there been a truer saying. Public Health monitors, protects, and promotes the community’s health and cannot be over-estimated.
There are clear correlations between inequality and unhealthy lifestyles. Smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption are all associated with economic deprivation. Public health plays a vital role in addressing causes of illness. It also plays a crucial role in supporting our coveted NHS by preventing the spread of illness.
It is no exaggeration to say that central government has taken an axe to public health budgets in recent years. Councils’ public health grant funding has been cut by £531 million between 2015/16 and 2019/2020.
Recently the Enfield Borough Over 50s Forum’ has shone a light on this important issue. Their excellent work has uncovered the fact that on top of a national funding crisis for public health, Enfield is severely underfunded compared to other boroughs. For instance, it has emerged that this year per head of its population, Haringey will receive £67, Islington £103, Camden £100, Kensington & Chelsea £130, but Enfield will receive only £47!
So, the gap between Enfield’s public health grant and the London average is now £26. This just will not do. This level of funding takes no account of the changing needs of Enfield’s people or its expanding population. We live in an area which has some of the most deprived wards in the country.
Even in relatively affluent Enfield Southgate, we have areas of severe poverty and pockets of chronic, preventable disease. It is time the Government fulfilled its duty and funded public health in Enfield Southgate properly. People here deserve nothing less.
That is why I have written to Seema Kennedy MP, the Minister for Public Health, to express my deep concern about the situation. I have asked why public health funding for Enfield has not been updated since 2015 in line with the changing needs of its citizens. I have asked why the Government have also recently admitted that ‘no specific assessment of any relationship between funding since 2015 and the effectiveness of services in Enfield’ has been made.
Clearly, this latest admission is a deeply worrying sign that the Government has absolutely no grasp of the real level of need in Enfield Southgate.
I know only too well from my weekly surgeries that the public health need in Southgate is chronic and worsening. There is no justification for the fact that Enfield’s public health grant is so much lower than the London average.
I will continue to hold the Government to account on this issue. It is often said that the mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. We are failing this test as a nation and only the Government can put this right.
If you wish to join me in seeking to end the under-funding of public health in Enfield, you can write to Seema Kennedy MP, Under-Secretary of State for Public Health, House of Commons, London SW1A OAA.
This article was featured in the summer issue of Palmers Green and Southgate LIFE magazine.
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