Given the regular criticism of governments for shorttermism, I was disappointed to see this working the other way with the Townsend Centre report on the widening gap in health inequalities and its particular attack on health action zones (news, page 6, 2 December).

Health inequalities were worsening when Sir Douglas Black reported in 1980, and since then have continued to widen. It should be no surprise to learn that this particular 'supertanker' has yet to turn. Tackling income inequalities is essential, but HAZs are also key to the overall strategy.

By tackling the causes of poor health at local level, HAZs are already making a real contribution. In more fully integrating health with economic, community regeneration, employment, education, and criminal justice agencies, we are creating new ways of working which, in my own area, include programmes for prisoners, a health component to the New Deal for 16 to 24-year-olds and a strong focus on mental health promotion.

It will be possible to criticise individual projects, but this misses the point. HAZs are not just a collection of projects - the projects are a means of delivering broader change.

HAZs are a seven-year programme but are only just setting out. But there is much positive to report and our contribution to reducing health inequalities will be realised.

Simon Hunter Director Health act ion zone Hull and East Riding