A new toolkit is launched today to support local authorities to get greater buy in from local businesses to the public health agenda. It contains simple actions which businesses could take to improve staff and customer health and well-being, such as employers encouraging active travel among their staff, promoting smoking cessation or catering outlets reducing salt in their foods.
The toolkit has been developed by the Department of Health, working with local authorities, the Local Government Association, Public Health England, and local businesses.
The toolkit takes the work that has been done at a national level through the Public Health Responsibility Deal and makes this relevant for local authorities and local businesses. Engagement with small businesses on public health is best led locally – using the knowledge, contacts and expertise that local authorities have.
The Responsibility Deal is a large-scale, ground breaking approach to improving public health. At a national level it has had much success in harnessing the potential for businesses and other organisations to shape the environment, making it easier for people to make healthier choices. To date, over 500 companies have made commitments covering alcohol, food, health at work and physical activity.
Chair of the Responsibility Deal health at work network, Dame Carol Black said:
“Small and medium-sized businesses employ fourteen million people – around 60% of the private sector. With the support of local authorities they have a significant part to play in improving workplace health and the health of their communities.
“Local authorities, armed with their new public health responsibilities, are uniquely placed to enable the necessary changes. They have the knowledge, contacts and strengthened expertise to make this happen.
“This toolkit is designed to support our public health work in partnership with local authorities and other networks, using the Responsibility Deal approach to drive change at a local level.”
The toolkit sets out a menu of simple, effective actions, which a range of local businesses could take to support their customers and employees make healthier choices, such as:
- encouraging staff to have a health check;
- promoting physical activity, for example by installing bike storage facilities and supporting active travel;
- for catering outlets, making their products healthier by using healthier oils, less salt and more fruit and vegetables;
- for businesses selling alcohol, improving the availability and promotion of drinks with lower levels of alcohol.
Cllr David Rogers, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Councils already support businesses on how to create a safe working environment for employees and customers, whether it be about preventing trips, slips and falls or helping them to fulfil their legal duties.
“This toolkit will help councils and local employers look beyond the safety of their employees and start thinking about how they can play a role in helping them be more active, eat better and reduce their stress levels.
“We understand that businesses are under huge financial pressures at the moment but hopefully we can work together to help create a happy healthy local workforce, helping to improve productivity and drive economic growth.”
Many of the indicators that the Public Health Outcomes Framework will measure could be improved by using a Responsibility Deal approach, including: employment for those with a long-term health condition, sickness absence rate, diet, smoking prevalence and alcohol-related admissions to hospital.
The London boroughs of Sutton and Merton have already developed their own scheme, based on the Responsibility Deal. Commenting on the initiative, Dr Ellis Friedman, Director of Public Health in Sutton, said:
“Inspired by the national Public Health Responsibility Deal the Sutton and Merton Public Health team developed a local Responsibility Deal in 2012 which will continue under each local authority for the year ahead.
“It has proven to be successful in engaging with new stakeholders within the two boroughs on public health on a wide range of topics – which have included physical activity, healthy eating, smoking cessation, sensible drinking and workplace health.
“Challenging outcomes have been developed for 2013/14 and we look forward to continued fruitful collaboration with even more new stakeholders.”
As the Sutton and Merton initiative shows, local authorities can use this toolkit to update and broaden existing local schemes or to develop new schemes. It offers flexibility, allowing local authorities to bring these ideas together with existing programmes and to use existing local branding.
If they wish, local authorities can do this under the umbrella of the Responsibility Deal, gaining enhanced national profile for their work by becoming national Responsibility Deal partners, pledging to engage local businesses on this agenda and report on this activity.