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About Politics of Health Group

Our health is critically influenced by the political and social situations in which we live and the exercise of power. Health inequalities are growing within and between communities, regions, countries and continents. Access to high quality health and social care is also distributed unfairly. At a time that has seen steady progress in the development of knowledge about how to promote health and the further development of technologies to tackle many diseases, we have also seen a growth in avoidable ill health and health inequality.

Inextricably linked to the issues of health promotion and health inequalities is the process of wealth creation and distribution. Despite unprecedented levels of wealth, in many regions of the world poverty, hunger and ill health are getting worse. In many parts of the world and within countries and regions, income and wealth inequality is growing.

PoHG believes that this situation is a direct consequence of political decision making and the pursuit of poorly regulated trade. PoHG believes that the pursuit of profit at the expense of people's health is unacceptable and must be stopped.

PoHG works to improve health for all and reduce health inequalities and the social inequalities that cause them by campaigning for policies beneficial to health and raising awareness of negative impacts of policies on health, both nationally and internationally.

PoHG will focus political attention on health in the broadest sense of the term. Health is about the whole of humanity and people's lives, environments, how we work, where we live, how we travel, what we eat and how we relate to others.

Whilst PoHG will maintain a predominantly UK focus, its work will not ignore the impact of UK politics on the health of other peoples, nor the impact of broader global politics and trade on the health of people living in the UK. PoHG will build positive and mutually enhancing relationships with both UK and international organisations that share the same philosophy and concerns.


Our core principles

  • The opportunity for good health is the fundamental human right
  • It is the responsibility of governments to strive for equitable social, economic and environmental conditions in which the health of all can thrive

The Politics of Health Group Charter was published in 2004.This set out in full sixteen principles that should guide political action and policy development for health. In 2016 these principles were incorporated into the UK Charter for Health.


PoHG had a previous incarnation during the 1970s and 80s with similar principles. Then, as now, PoHG was driven by the belief that power exercised through politics and its impact on public policy is of fundamental importance for health. With the growth of movements holding similar values, such as the Health for All movement and the Public Health Alliance the original PoHG folded. As these movements in turn declined it became clear that there did not exist a body that was primarily concerned with how power and politics affect health and inequalities in health, and so PoHG was revived in 2002.

PoHG’s coverage

PoHG’s focus is UK wide but we also have an international perspective that recognises the influence of European and global issues on public health and health inequalities in the UK. In the light of political developments in Scotland, it is possible that there will be a divergence north of the border in terms of PoHG activity. There is a small group of active PoHG members in Scotland as well as in England, but PoHG has no significant presence in Wales or Northern Ireland.


We have no constitution but do have a set of guidelines for managing PoHG (see Guidelines below). PoHG consists of a loose network of supporters and contributors to email discussions via the universities’ JISCMAIL system. PoHG is run by a steering group of ten PoHG supporters who volunteer their time. From time to time we seek new steering group members via the email list. There are no paid workers. The steering group ‘meets’ via telephone conferences with occasional face to face meetings. We have two co-chairs, a Treasurer and a general administrator.


We have no financial resources to speak of. We do not ask for a membership subscription but we occasionally appeal for donations from subscribers to the email list to support core functions such as hosting the website and telephone conferences. Face to face meetings have sometimes been supported financially or in kind by academic institutions or local authorities. We had a concerted effort to gain significant funding some years ago, resulting in some support for UK Health Watch 2005. Our successes have been the result of the efforts and goodwill of the steering group and a few other supporters and collaborating organisations. Another potentially useful resource is an extensive network of contacts, including some influential politicians.


Since its revival in 2002, despite our very limited resources, PoHG has made some significant progress (see Milestones below) including several publications, an active and lively email discussion group, web site, Facebook page, open meetings in London, Liverpool, Birmingham and elsewhere, workshops at conferences, joint initiatives with likeminded groups and more. We have worked with numerous other organisations to build momentum around health inequalities campaigning. We prepared good practice briefings incorporating a politics of health approach for people working in local government, the NHS, academia and the civil service. Working with Birmingham City University we organized a major national project in 2016 to mark the 30th Anniversary of the publication of the Ottawa Charter.


Several attempts at strategic planning have had mixed success and we have so far failed to make a breakthrough to build a vibrant mass movement that encompasses the academic, professional, and community sectors. We are refocusing our efforts to collaborate with likeminded organisations in order to reach a wider audience.

Guidelines for Managing the Group

Our Supporters

The Politics of Health Group consists of people from various walks of life who are concerned about the impact of power on health. Amongst our members are people who work in health and health related settings, in local government and in voluntary organisations, academics, community activists, retired people – anyone who shares our values is welcome to join us.

PoHG wants

  • The elimination of suffering caused by bad public policy
  • To build better understanding of the political causes and consequences of health and ill health
  • The promotion of health to be a central concern of politics so that public policy and social interventions focus on improving health
  • Health services developed in accordance with the principles set out in the Uk Charter for Health

Mechanisms and rules by which PoHG operates

PoHG has no formal constitution. The following are the guidelines by which we operate.

  1. Email group open to all supporters whereby they can contribute to discussions on topics relating to our concerns.
  2. Website ( and Facebook page.
  3. A steering group nominated from the email group. The steering group is responsible for managing PoHG and meets about four times a year mostly by telephone conferencing and occasionally face to face.
  4. The Chair, Treasurer and Administrator are elected annually by the steering group.
  5. PoHG’s bank account is held by the Cooperative Bank. Signatories to PoHG’s bank account are the Chair and the Treasurer, both signatures required.
  6. Open meetings for supporters are held approximately once a year.
  7. There is no membership subscription. Supporters are invited to donate to PoHG on an ad hoc basis to fund such items as web hosting, meeting expenses, administration.
  8. PoHG works in partnership with other organisations such as the People’s Health Movement and MEDACT.
  9. PoHG publishes policy papers, discussion papers, and articles on line via its website.
  10. PoHG campaigns on issues such as inequalities in health, social justice, environmental sustainability - through letter writing, discussions with policy makers, articles in press and media.

Members of the Steering Group in May 2020

Alex Scott-Samuel, Sue Laughlin, Maggie Winters.

PoHG Milestones

2002Exploratory meeting in London to revive a Politics of Health Group
2003Launch of revived PoHG, Liverpool
2002-2014Email group functions as a virtual network to disseminate information and foster discussion
2003Publication of "Towards a New Politics of Health"
2004Open meeting in London "Making Politics Healthy"
2004-2005Flurry of activity to build alliances, eg with UKPHA, MEDACT,Social Marketing Centre
2004-2010PoHG leads workshops at national conferences eg European Public Health Association, UK Public Health Association, University of Central England, University of Liverpool
2004-2014A series of face to face steering group meetings (Manchester, York, Durham, Edinburgh)
2004Produced PoHG Charter
2004Creation of PoHG website
2004-2010Regular contributions to "Health Matters"
2005Publication of "UK Health Watch"to complement People's Health Movement's Global Health Watch. Predictions made then as to what the key policy issues would be: efforts to privatise the NHS, further conflict, health inequalities - all now at the top of the political agenda
2011Open meeting in London to discuss impact of recent government policy on public health and on the NHS
2011Work to influence debate via the media
2011Work to link with Unnatural Causes in USA
2011We coordinated some campaigning in relation to proposed health care reforms, including writing an official letter to the Commons Select Committe
2012Facebook page established
2014Joined with the People's Health Movement to organise the People's Health Assembly in Edinburgh
2014Planning begins for a major event in 2016 to mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of the Ottawa Charter
2015Published good practice briefings for people working in local government and in academia
2015Published A Right to Health for All -a joint paper by the Politics of Health Group and the People's Health Movement to the People's Health Movement, to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
2016Joined with Birmingham City University to organise three regional seminars and one national conference around the theme of "A New Politics for Health". This resulted in the UK Charter for Health.
2016Steering group take a rest.
2016-2020A growing JISCMAIL list continues to generate lively discussion. Facebook page keeps supporters up to date with national and international developments.

PoHG will:

  • Publish
  • Campaign
  • Disseminate information
  • Encourage Debate
  • Promote the exchange of ideas about how public policy impacts on health and what can be done to ensure that public policy promotes and sustains health

If you want to join PoHG contact us at:

Join Us

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PoHG welcomes individual and organisational members from any background related to the politics of health.

  • PoHG aims to attract a wide range of support from diverse groups and individuals.
  • PoHG will operate as a networked association for people concerned about the impact of politics on current health and health care issues and the future well being of all

If you want to join PoHG contact us at:

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The picture at the top of this page is © J Hewitson ( reproduced by permission of the National Labor Federation, 220 West 19 St, Suite A,NY,NY 10011,USA