The Public Health Responsibility Deal – a good deal for everyone?

23 Mar 2011

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has unveiled the government’s Responsibility Deal.

It covers 5 main areas that directly affect all members of today’s Big Society; alcohol, food, behaviour change, health at work and physical activity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, alcohol and food seem to be most controversial areas.

The government says that the series of voluntary pledges set out in the Responsibility Deal will “enable and encourage people to drink sensibly and responsibly”. The pledges cover a range of issues, including under age drinking, labelling, supporting Drinkaware and local community initiatives.

So far, around 150 companies, including supermarkets, drinks producers and pub companies, have signed up, with the aim of helping to “foster a culture of responsible drinking”. They seem to agree with the government that this is the way to get fast, workable results; Andrew Lansley says that “public health is everyone’s responsibility and there is a role for all of us, working in partnership, to tackle these issues”.

However, 6 of the country’s most influential health organisations have refused to support the Responsibility Deal. Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said that “by allowing the drinks industry to propose such half hearted pledges ….. this government has clearly shown that, when it comes to public health its first priority is to side with big business and protect private profit”.

With so many conflicting views, interests and opinions at stake, the big question is; can this kind of voluntary regulation really work?