By Mark Smulian
The Improvement & Development Agency has been appointed by the Department of Health to help councils devise local health strategies.
Its two-year healthy communities programme, due to be launched next week, aims to build councils' capacity to tackle health inequalities, promote well-being and foster joint working with health bodies, in particular though local area agreements (LAAs).
Andrew Cozens, former president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, who is leading the IDeA's work, said: 'We prefer to look on this as health promotion rather than prevention of illness.
'There is no additional funding to councils, but this work is wrapped in their roles in well-being and adult care and some have been able to bend funding streams in LAAs to get money for this.'
Health promotion is not a duty on councils, although the Local Government Association has called for it to become one in the expectation that it would mean additional government funds for the work, Mr Cozens said.
Mr Cozens urged councils to see health promotion as work that would stretch across their activities and not pigeon-hole it in social services.
The IDeA's work will concentrate on the 70 councils with the worst health inequalities, - mainly in inner London, the midlands and the north.
Government policy has driven councils and health bodies closer together.
The Our health, our care, our say white paper, published in January, called on councils to appoint adult services directors who would share responsibility with directors of public health to assess communities' health and social care needs and the quality of services provided.