The Government’s long-awaited Levelling Up white paper finally landed last week, outlining the policies for “helping the people and parts of the country most struggling.”
The paper sets out pledges for improving the economic, technological, educational and healthcare disparities across the UK, with targets set for each. One of these, is to narrow the gap in healthy life expectancy between local areas by 2030.
Health improvements being included in the broader ‘levelling up’ conversation is certainly a step in the right direction. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the disparities in quality of care across the UK have become more apparent than ever, making it essential for healthcare to be covered in this plan.
So how will the white paper deliver these objectives? The policy programme is set out under three specific areas: public health, food and diet, and tackling the diagnostic backlog.
Ensuring the success of these programmes comes down to several groups – one of these groups, is communications professionals.
As the group responsible for delivering the Levelling Up agenda to the media and masses, communication professionals will play a pivotal role in honing the language and messaging in a way which resonates with the public. Policy change is one thing, but encouraging uptake and public support is just as important.
Healthcare communications can offer expertise in how to talk to local communities, in a language they understand and a voice they trust. Only when noting cultural sensitivities, nuances and health priorities can you expect the public to engage with policy changes in a sincere manner.
This is especially true for any groups which are harder to reach, or who are more resistant to health messages. Considering the goal of the exercise is ‘levelling up’, the importance of successfully communicating with these harder to reach communities cannot be overlooked and engaging strategies must be formulated with these groups in mind.
Another initiative covered in the white paper is the expansion of mayoral combined authorities. Greater devolution along the lines of the Greater Manchester and West Midlands has already proven to be highly successful. Looking at Greater Manchester, since being given direct control over its healthcare spend, excellent progress has been made, in the realms of care homes, children’s mental health and physical inactivity.
Should more areas of the UK follow suit, so the role of healthcare communications professionals will again be key to success. With expertise in engaging with local press and a steer on how best to tailor communications to different communities across the UK, comms pros can be instrumental in delivering campaigns and nuanced messaging in a way which will resonate with different regions and groups.
Overall, the pandemic has caused the connections between politics, science and health to come under more scrutiny than ever before. The Levelling Up white paper outlines much needed action for the industry. Now healthcare communications professionals must recognise their role in supporting these programmes, by articulating the change which is needed, offering positive ideas and delivering messaging which encourages support from both the media and the public.
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