chapter  3
Health creation and maintenance
Pages 28

After taking office, the Labour government signalled significant changes in policies aimed at creating and maintaining good health more equally in the population as a whole; changes with profound implications for social work. First, tackling health inequalities was moved to centre stage: one of the two declared aims of ‘Our Healthier Nation’ (DoH 1998a: 5) was to ‘improve the health of the worst off in society and to narrow the health gap’. Second, the government argued that the primary means of reducing health inequalities was not through NHS policy and practice: ‘Tackling inequalities generally is the best means of tackling health inequalities in particular. This means tackling inequality which stems from poverty, poor housing, pollution, low educational standards, joblessness and low pay’ (DoH 1998a: 12). This agenda mirrored an international perspective on health creation in which health was seen as a collective good: in which one person’s health should not be achieved either at the expense of others’ ill health (equity) or at the expense of the environment (sustainability) (Dahlgren and Whitehead 1991 ; Labonte 1997).