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Leadership for health. How can we ensure that the values and principles of public health become central to health and social policy?
  1. Maureen Dalziel
  1. National Co-ordinating Centre for NHS Service Delivery and Organisation Research and Development (NCCSDO), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT
  1. Dr Dalziel (maureen.dalziel{at}

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After three years of the present British government, it is becoming clear that it is committed to raising clinical standards and modernising the National Health Service.1-3 In addition, the NHS white paper2 seeks to refocus health services to take on board a public health agenda that aims to reduce ill health and health inequalities for the whole population. Acknowledging that the NHS alone cannot achieve this agenda, the paper puts considerable emphasis on inter-agency collaboration and joint working. The duty of achieving this partnership will be placed on the key stakeholders.

These themes of collaboration are reiterated in the public health white paper,1 which proposes “national contracts for health” in the priority areas of heart disease and stroke, accidents, cancer and mental health. The paper also promises “a concerted and co-ordinated drive against poor health”, and similar commitments are given in other government documents.

For its part, the government has appointed a minister for public health and a ministerial cabinet committee drawn from 12 departments, and has given a commitment to assess the impact of relevant policies on public health. Health authorities will lead local alliances to develop health improvement programmes. The programmes will address national and local priorities and will shape local health care provision. The primary role of health authorities is changing from one of commissioning, which will largely be devolved to primary care groups, to that of strategic leadership in improving the health of the population. Public health specialists, both medical and non-medical, have a crucial part to play in this era, as their primary concern is with the health of the population. Opportunities now exist to ensure that the government's policy agenda is harnessed to improve health and health care, and to direct the creation and implementation of future health policy.

There is …

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