At a glance: The Wanless Report

Why is this report significant? The author, NatWest’s ex-group chief executive Derek Wanless, says the Government should be prioritising health promotion and he wants ‘appropriately constructed’ messages for at-risk groups.

The onus is on the Government to provide this, but there is scope for enterprising health PROs to help with ideas for campaigns to target people Wanless says are not getting the message.

And the Government will listen to a bank manager on health issues?

Yes. He is a high-profile Downing Street adviser and they take him seriously. The health of the nation is an important financial issue, so Gordon Brown is keen to hear what he has to say. The Treasury and Department of Health asked Wanless to write this report as an addition to his 2002 report on long-term health trends.

What sorts of health issues is Wanless thinking of in particular?

The usual suspects: smoking, drinking, lack of exercise. He says attention must be paid to people who have ‘lower health literacy’. We are now in the consultation period prior to the publication of a health White Paper and his report, Securing Good Health for the Whole Population, is seen as a key pointer to what we’ll eventually see on the statute book.

What else could PROs be involved in?

The storm over MMR or the Government’s recent Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, which was seen as flawed (PRWeek, 19 March), demonstrate that carefully targeted health promotion is hard to achieve. The public sector does not have a monopoly on good ideas when it comes to PR in this area. And Wanless emphasises that private companies also have a duty to provide clear, consistent and relevant communication on issues of safety, the health aspects of products and what is in them.

Does Wanless say how campaigns should be put together?

No, but he says health advice needs to be available in all formats. Wanless targets the internet as being particularly important, and wants the NHS Direct service expanded.

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