Rising costs of essential food items and energy are leading to a further ‘health emergency’ following the pandemic, local health officials have warned.
The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) sounded the alarm at the Annual Public Health Conference which starts today, drawing attention to ‘significant health consequences’ of increasing living costs.
‘The rising cost of living is having a real impact on our local communities, particularly in areas with higher levels of deprivation,’ said councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.
He added: ‘Councils have been doing what they can to help, bringing together partners from the NHS and voluntary sector to support those who need it the most.
‘Public health is at the forefront of each local response, building on the experience of the pandemic.’
According to the Annual Public Health Report, published by LGA and ADPH, people with the least financial resilience are the most affected by the cost-of-living crisis but an increasing number of individuals who were previously ‘just about managing’ now require support.
While acknowledging that councils and directors of public health have taken action such as providing warm hubs and access to affordable food, the LGA is concerned that existing health inequalities could worsen and lead to a health emergency.
The report highlights that economic prosperity and health are closely linked, and emphasises that the relationship between the two needs to be more widely understood.
Councils are urging the government to address current challenges by providing long-term increases to local public health funding to support those communities that need it the most.
The report marks the 10th anniversary of the transfer of public health responsibilities to local authorities.
Professor Jim McManus, ADPH president and director of Public Health for Hertfordshire, said the last decade had seen ‘a great deal of progress’ as a result of the move to local government, but warned current funding is inadequate.
‘Directors of public health in England are able to work in much closer partnership with local government departments than before to help ensure that our communities’ health needs are put at the very heart of decision and policy making,’ Professor McManus said.
‘However, there is still a long way to go. Our colleagues in the NHS and voluntary and community sector are a critical part of the work we are doing in public health to help people, right from the very start of childhood, live longer, healthier lives.
‘Unfortunately, new Public Health Grant allocations [have been] published, and once again, we find ourselves without adequate funding.’