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Giant balloon urges Britain to ‘Get Well Soon’ as charities campaign for new Bill of Health

02 October 2023
  • Health Equals lands at the Conservative Party Conference with a message that literally can’t be ignored: a giant ‘Get Well Soon’ balloon that dominates the Manchester skyline.
  • The balloon is a stark reminder of the 85,000 preventable deaths every year in Great Britain stemming from factors like poor housing, jobs, food and air.
  • According to Health Equals, the answers to the nation’s ills are hiding in plain sight, and the group is now calling for all parties to put a new ‘Bill of Health’ at the heart of their manifesto.

Today, Health Equals, a coalition of 27 charities, think tanks and businesses, is sending its best wishes to the nation with a 5-metre ‘Get Well Soon’ balloon – the same height as a double-decker bus – in Exchange Square, Manchester.

The balloon, which dominates the Manchester skyline, is designed to capture the attention of the MPs, policy makers and policy influencers that have descended on the city for the Conservative Party Conference, which started yesterday – and will reappear at Pierhead in Liverpool next week for Labour Party Conference. The message is a stark reminder that any party hoping to form the next government needs to put health at the heart of their plans.

In Great Britain, there are 85,000 preventable deaths each year – that’s one death every 6 minutes. These are deaths that could be prevented through action to prevent the causes of ill health by addressing factors like cold and damp homes, low-paid and stressful jobs, poor quality food and air pollution.

People are also spending more of their lives in poorer health, with a record 2.6 million people in the UK currently out of the labour market due to long-term ill-health and disability. It doesn’t have to be this way: ensuring that everyone has access to the building blocks of health – good-quality homes, stable jobs, access to healthy food, social connections, green space and clean air – can help us all live longer, healthier lives.

To achieve this, it is critical that policies to improve each of these building blocks are put front and centre of the major political parties’ manifestos as we head towards the 2024 General Election.

Speaking on behalf of Health Equals, David Finch, Assistant Director at The Health Foundation, said:

‘The wide variation in the quality of jobs, housing, education, environment and transport across different areas of the UK means not everyone has the same chance of a long, healthy life. The stark differences in people unable to work on health grounds is unfair and unacceptable. It is critical that policy makers act to improve the building blocks of health if Britain is to get back on its feet. As political parties are gearing up to battle for votes, they need to commit to breaking this cycle; it’s time to give the nation a clean Bill of Health.’

Health Equals is campaigning for a new Bill of Health, which will improve people’s health and reduce health inequalities. This would work to ensure that the building blocks of health are available to everyone, and make all parts of the Government work towards a shared goal of improving health and reducing health inequalities.

The Bill will:

  • set an ambitious but achievable goal for the Government to improve health and reduce health inequalities. This should include time-bound targets that are enshrined in law, measurable and achievable, and set a shared goal for all parts of government
  • establish mechanisms to support all parts of the Government to work together to achieve this goal, for example health impact assessments or a Cabinet Committee
  • enable Government policy to be held to account for its impact on health by creating a statutory mechanism for independent scrutiny.

Tony Wilson, Institute Director at the Institute for Employment Studies added:

‘Policymakers need to commit to concrete actions that will improve health for everyone’s benefit, and we are here to start that conversation. Having stable employment has been shown to boost health and wellbeing. Conversely, a workplace with poor conditions, low pay, unstable hours, and where employees have a lack of control can cause health issues. If we want people to be healthy and in work, we need to make sure our workplaces, and other building blocks of health like education and housing, are set up to support to good health.

Matt Downie, Chief Executive of Crisis, a member of Health Equals, added:

‘It should go without saying that everyone has the right to a safe and secure home so they can stay healthy and well. Yet we’re in a situation where tens of thousands of households are breathing in toxic mould or suffering from severe anxiety that they’ll be evicted at a moment’s notice, while others are being exposed to freezing temperatures on our streets. This isn’t right.

‘If we’re to improve the health of the nation we need the Government and all major parties to get on with building the 90,000 social homes we need yearly, so that everyone can have a decent, truly affordable home.

We’re in a situation where tens of thousands of households are breathing in toxic mould or suffering from severe anxiety that they’ll be evicted at a moment’s notice, while others are being exposed to freezing temperatures on our streets.

Vicki Nash, Associate Director for Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said:

‘It is totally unacceptable that in 2023 people still face a postcode lottery when it comes to their likelihood of developing mental health problems and accessing support. This includes those severely affected by mental health problems dying younger.

‘The route to tackling this starts with the things driving poor mental health, like people’s living conditions and barriers to properly paid employment. We expect to see all major parties lay out in their manifestos how they will do this and properly fund measures to reset these inequalities.’

For further information, please contact:

Beth Hardwick, 07710 529 953 / [email protected]

Holly Beattie, Health Equals, 07784 697 776 / [email protected]

Additional information

Health Equals has access to additional spokespeople and new illustrative case studies. If there is interest in running this story, we are happy to provide these to you – including the full data set.

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