Politics: Health action zones planned

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The Independent Online
Teenage pregnancy, heart disease, and air pollution in the inner cities could be tackled by the announcement of the setting up of 10 health action zones to be foreshadowed in the Prime Minister's speech tomorrow. The HAZs will be established in areas of high deprivation to tackle all forms of ill health in the community, which stem from poverty, stress and poor housing. The aim is to build up family doctor services and community health care in the areas, backed by effective health prevention and promotion, and making all sides of the NHS from GPs to hospital consultants, pull together in spite of the bureaucratic barriers to co-operation.

Mr Blair will say about 10 zones will be up and running by 1 April, 1998, but he will not be able to announce where they are being set up. The health authorities who bid to become HAZs will have to show they have the support of their communities to make it work. They are likely to include a "healthy living centre" in the zones, going into schools to teach children more about healthy diets. They would get funding under new rule changes from the National, Lottery but there will be no special extra funding from the Government for the rest of the HAZs, which could open ministers to criticism.