'For the first time, a government is standing up to be counted - setting specific standards against which we'll be judged, tackling poverty and its causes,' social security secretary Alistair Darling declared last week.

Launching Opportunity for All, his department's first 'poverty audit', he promised to tackle not just the 'simple problem about money', but poor housing, health and education, lack of opportunity and poverty of expectation.

The document brings together policies across government - including some from Department of Health white papers on public health and tobacco - but sets no new health targets, few that are quantifiable and in places admits that there is no baseline data.

Targets on children's health include a reduction in the proportion of low-birthweight babies - of less than 2.5kg - and a reduction in the rate of hospital admissions as a result of serious injuries, but these apply only in areas covered by the Sure Start initiative.

The document also calls for an unspecified reduction in the number of child hospital admissions of more than three days resulting from unintentional injuries, for which official figures already show a long-term decline.

Among people of working age, Opportunity for All says there should be a fall in smoking rates in all social classes - the Smoking Kills white paper has already said the proportion of adult smokers should fall from 28 per cent to 24 per cent by 2010.

The document also endorses the Saving Lives white paper target to reduce suicides.

For elderly people, Opportunity for All says there should be an increase in healthy life expectancy at age 65 - one of the headline sustainable development indicators used by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Launching the document at the Bow Centre in east London's Tower Hamlets, Mr Darling also called for community-wide action. 'A child's health is bound up with the health of their parents, with their employment opportunities, with their access to healthcare and support in times of crisis,' he said. 'These are the problems people here are facing head-on.'

And repeating the government mantra of 'joined-up problems with joined- up solutions', he cited health action zones as one way forward.

Responding to the initiative, Donald Reid, joint chief executive of the UK Public Health Association, said it was a matter of 'regret' that the government had failed to set national targets for reductions in health inequalities.

And, though he welcomed the strategy, he said it had 'got off to a bad start' thanks to speculation about tax cuts. The money 'should be kept by the government to provide better services for the most deprived'.

Opportunity for All - tackling poverty and social exclusion. www.dss.gov.uk/hq/pubs/poverty