'Cynicism crushes enthusiasm and energy and is deeply damaging'

One thing on my mind at the moment is cynicism.

Last week, one of my favourite civil servant colleagues was talking to a visitor. She remarked on how upbeat he sounded. He responded by pointing at me: 'It's her fault, she's banned cynicism!'

Cynicism should be banned - it is destructive and unhelpful. It creates a culture that crushes enthusiasm and energy and is deeply damaging.

It's not hard to spot in meetings: the cynics roll their eyes whenever they are presented with new ideas and they revel in saying why things can't happen rather than trying to think about why they can be made to.

Don't confuse the sin of cynicism with scepticism, which is a vital and important tool in a healthy and successful culture.

At the Department of Health we are privileged to be able to actually address health inequalities and promote the kind of culture and attitude that fosters success and delivery.

The HSJ Awards health inequalities category celebrates those who have been appropriately sceptical, addressed issues and produced a programme of excellence. There's still time for you to enter.

These are two inspirational case studies; one from last year's HSJ Awards and another from one of the 22 Communities for Health pilots.

Blackpool Life: rise to the challenge, a wide-ranging campaign by Blackpool primary care trust, was aimed at tackling health inequalities.

As well as improving health, organisers wanted to promote a positive image of the town as a healthy place to live, work and visit.

A year-long programme of events and activities concentrated on nutrition and physical activity; smoking, alcohol and drugs; sexual health and teenage pregnancy; and accident prevention.

The launch was covered extensively by local and regional media and, crucially, was supported by the town's evening newspaper.

Successes so far include an 11 per cent drop in teenage pregnancies since 2003, improved life expectancy, and increased numbers of people getting drug and alcohol treatment.

The Active for Life campaign links Brighton and Hove city council with the local primary care trust, and voluntary and community sector organisations.

Work between partners has been positive and supportive: the connection with Everyday Sport, the development of a pilot exercise referral scheme, the adoption of an active workplace plan for the PCT and the designation of Brighton and Hove as a cycle demonstration town with£3.5m funding for cycling infrastructure. All are attributable to the groundswell of influence encouraging more people to be more active, more often.

Maggie Rae is head of health inequalities and head of local delivery for the Department of Health.