The Coalition Government has published a White Paper, Healthy lives, healthy people, which outlines its strategy for public health in England. The White Paper draws on the Council’s ladder of intervention, as set out in its 2007 report Public health: ethical issues.

“The Nuffield Council on Bioethics believes that the state has a duty to help people lead healthy lives and to reduce inequalities in health, so we welcome the serious attention and early priority afforded to public health by the Coalition Government,” said Hugh Whittall, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

With regard to interventions, the White Paper recognises that it is not simply a question of intrusive intervention versus a hands-off approach, and notes that there is a "wide range of interventions that are available and the need to make decisions on a case-by-case basis about which to use.” The White Paper then uses the Council’s intervention ladder to provide a visual demonstration of the range of interventions:

PH White Paper intervention ladder Nov 2010

The Government says it will “aim to use the least intrusive approach necessary to achieve the desired effect”.

“The Council agrees that public health programmes should minimise unduly intrusive or coercive interventions,” said Hugh Whittall. “However, that’s not to say that more stringent interventions cannot be justified in some cases. For example, the serious harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption means the government has an ethical obligation to implement tougher measures to tackle this problem. We look forward to receiving further details in 2011 on how the Government plans to approach specific areas of public health.”

Find out more about the Council’s report Public health: ethical issues

Find out more about the Government's White Paper Healthy lives, healthy people: Our strategy for public health in England