The King's Fund has called for London's new mayor to be given a much stronger role in promoting health.

The greater London authority bill to establish an assembly and a directly elected mayor received its second reading in Parliament this week. But King's Fund public health programme director Anna Coote said the draft legislation was 'disappointingly vague' about health. 'Duties and powers must be clarified so the mayor and assembly can do their job properly,' she told a conference on health, the London mayor and the greater London assembly last week. 'This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.'

Among ideas canvassed at the conference was a public health team within the assembly to have a well-defined role in promoting the health of Londoners.

'We are not calling for the mayor to meddle in the management of health services,' said Ms Coote. 'Londoners' health can only be improved through a range of policies which tackle the roots of the problem.'

The conference was supported by a survey carried out with the Evening Standard which showed the majority of Londoners think the capital is an unhealthy place to live. Most felt it was likely to be worse in the next five years, with increasing air pollution a particular concern.

Public health minister Tessa Jowell stressed that the mayor would have a duty to promote improvements in health and a responsibility to make explicit the health implications of their policies. But she said improvements would also depend crucially on a partnership between the mayor and the NHS Executive London regional office.

She also said there was little support for the idea that the mayor and assembly should manage and provide health services. Ms Jowell declined to offer a blueprint for how the mayor and the assembly would handle health. But she said: 'Partnership is critical to delivery.'

London Research Centre director Anne Page told the conference that social and economic deprivation was widespread, with a million adults on income support.