THIS WEEK

The government will pledge to 'identify more fully' how local and regional government can act to reduce health inequalities in a consultation paper published this week.

Tackling Health Inequalities:

consultation on a plan for delivery reveals the emerging approach to developing a wide 'basket of indicators' to measure progress on reducing health inequalities.

But the detail is sketchy, with views sought only on the 'general approach' and on any 'critical information gaps'.

The document calls for views on six priority themes:

providing a sure foundation through a healthy pregnancy and early childhood, improving opportunity for children, improving primary care, tackling cancer and heart disease, strengthening disadvantaged communities, and tackling the wider determinants of health inequality.

It proposes a framework of national targets and high-level indicators with a national or regional 'basket' of broader indicators from which regional priorities could be chosen, and an even more 'local basket'.

But despite a bold statement that 'we intend to identify more fully the role that can be expected of local and regional government, and the community and voluntary sector in facilitating action', the document is light on suggestions about how this might be done.

Instead it asks for views on 'these systems and processes' and how they could be 'strengthened'.

The document also suggests that equity audits to be introduced by the Department of Health from autumn next year might include a health inequality impact assessment.

Consultation ends on 9 December, with an implementation plan due to be published in the new year.