HC Deb 26 October 1976 vol 918 cc254-5
4. Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will increase the grant for health prevention work to the Health Education Council.

Mr. Ennals

As I stated in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) on 15th October, I propose to allocate an extra £1 million to the Health Education Council for its budget for 1977–78. In addition, I shall be making available to the Health Education Council £200,000 a year specifically for contraception health education including publicity for the NHS family planning service.

Mr. Sims

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his announcement has been widely welcomed? Does he agree that a relatively modest increase in expenditure on health education can effect substantial economies in the treatment of illness and disease? That is particularly so for example, in dental health, bearing in mind the estimate that only half the population has a toothbrush.

Mr. Ennals

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said. That is one reason for my ministerial colleagues and myself putting a great deal of stress and emphasis on the importance of prevention and health. The launching of the publication "Prevention and Health: Everybody's Business" is really the beginning of a new emphasis on preventive medicine. That is why we are greatly expanding the funds available—in fact, almost doubling them—to the Health Education Council.

Mr. Pavitt

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the Chief Medical Officer once said that the most important thing to do for preventive medicine was to do something about smoking and chest diseases? Will he take further action to make far more inroads into the £80 million being spent by the tobacco industry to persuade people to smoke? Even the amount now being given is inadequate unless the action supplements the work of the Health Education Council.

Mr. Ennals

I agree that an important contribution to the health of the nation could be made if people stopped smoking, or greatly reduced their smoking, and if young people and women did not start smoking. There has been a serious growth in the number of young people and women who have taken up smoking, to the detriment of their health as well as their economic situation.

Mr. Jessel

My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) referred to dental health. Will the Health Education Council be asked to do more to promote fluoridation, which reduces dental decay in children by more than half, with absolute safety and at extremely low cost?

Mr. Ennals

I absolutely agree. Not only have I made a statement in support of fluoridation, but I have made additional funds available because I think it is a matter of great importance, especially following upon the point made by the hon. Member for Chislehurst.

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