Three in five members of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) believe EU membership has a positive effect on the public’s health.
A poll of 500 RSPH members found that 61% said the UK’s involvement in the EU is beneficial to the public’s wellbeing.
However 25% said membership has a negative effect on public health while 14% said it made no difference.
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH, said: “Among those working to improve and protect the public’s health, there is a clear majority who view EU membership positively.
“Our membership of the EU has undoubtedly created a number of tangible dividends for the public’s health and wellbeing, most notably in areas of environmental health such as water and air quality which are best tackled at an international level, and this is reflected in the results of our member survey.
“On the other hand, there may be opportunities for the UK to go farther faster in some areas of public health policy, such as food labelling, that have been slowed by decision making within an international community.
“Whether the UK chooses to leave or remain, it is essential that health gains are not rolled back and a legislative environment that encourages progressive public health measures is maintained.”
The poll from the RSPH follows a report by the Faculty of Public Health (FPH), which also said staying in the EU is the best option for public health.
The FPH report, UK Faculty of Public Health Report on the Health-Related Consequences of the European Union Referendum, found that of its 154 members, 86.4% supported the option to remain in the EU.
The report said a decision to remain in the EU would ensure continued protection for health, especially from legislation on clean air, water, safe food and consumer products.
The report also says staying the EU will provide a flow of qualified workers for the NHS and funded opportunities for researchers to thrive in a dynamic scientific community.
Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “Public health is about analysing the best available evidence to make an informed judgement.
“Our independent report reflects that we have a lot of evidence about what the UK’s membership of the EU means for public health, but very little about what the impact of leaving would be.”
He added: “The UK has a strong leadership role for public health in Europe, for example on resistance to antibiotics.
“We all benefit from a pan-European approach to such a vital issue. Our analysis is that is better for the UK to remain a team player within Europe, where we benefit from shared intelligence, response and action.”