If MPs are serious about the health of the population (and it seems they are, given recent promises of increased funding for the NHS), then when they vote later today about whether or not Heathrow airport should get a third runway and therefore a programme of expansion, they should ask them selves the following questions:
- Are we taking seriously the Public Health England, World Health Organisation and World Health Innovation Summit advice seriously to write health into ALL policies? If so, will the expansion of Heathrow improve or worsen health outcomes, given that air pollution is the second biggest attributal cause to early death in England? How much consideration is given to health outcomes currently when it comes to transport, energy or business policies?
- Will the expansion of Heathrow prevent exposures to hazards that cause disease or injury? We know that pollution is worse in our more deprived, urban populations. We know that people in these areas are more likely to suffer with respiratory conditions, such as asthma and COPD. Therefore we must ask, is the expansion of Heathrow likely to improve respiratory conditions in London or worsen them?
- Will the expansion of Heathrow help to tackle the underlying social determinants of health? No, as Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics) and Greg Fell (DPH for Sheffield) have demonstrated, sadly it won’t. It may help certain businesses to thrive, and may help stave off some of the economic downturn post Brexit, but the premise is still built on the idea that trickle down economics works and helps to tackle inequality (and therefore health inequality), which it does not.
It seems very odd to be making a promise to invest more money in the NHS, whilst acting through other policies to actually make health worse. Some very clear thought is needed ahead of this vote.