Set aside short-term political differences and look decades ahead says RCM on Lancet health Manifesto

By RCM on 06 October 2016

Today the Lancet has published a “Manifesto for a healthy and health-creating society”. The manifesto is supported by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).The Manifesto sets out a positive vision of how the UK can promote and improve health and at the same time strengthen the economy of the country.

Commenting on the Manifesto, Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives and one of the Manifesto co-authors, said: “Maternity services are facing huge pressures and demands on its resources. Much of this is from problems in pregnancy associated with issues such as smoking and obesity. Smoking in pregnancy is a major contributor to stillbirths. Much of this could be prevented with a stronger focus on public health.

“The serious shortage of midwives and lack of adequate resources in our maternity services are also affecting the ability of staff to promote health, for example the lack of support for mothers who want to breast feed.

“Midwives have a vital role in promoting public health. This is often an unrecognised and undervalued aspect of their jobs. The significant contribution they are making, and could make, with the right resources and investment needs to be recognised. It is not all about delivering babies.

“Midwives are caring for women at a time in their life when they may be more receptive to messages and information about their lifestyle choices. This can lead to a healthier mother, but also a healthier baby with fewer illnesses into adulthood.

“This is why the RCM has developed a public health model for midwives. This will enable them to more easily focus on the key public health issues relevant to the woman they are caring for.

“Better public health is however not just an issue for health services. A sea change is needed in how we address this in society as a whole. The manifesto recognises this. It is not just about health services refocussing on prevention but is about all of society getting this message. For example whether or not a woman breastfeeds her baby can be significantly influenced by the attitude of both the public and of her employer.

“Public health messages also need to start early in schools. We need to educate young children and teenagers about the long term impact of smoking. We need to stop them before they start smoking.  This is obvious but seems to be not happening enough.

“There is also a pressing need to address the inequalities in society that contribute to poorer health. This leads to less healthy adults and babies who in turn become less healthy adults.

“This is not going to be solved overnight. Improving public health is not the work of months or even years. We need to be looking decades into to the future. We need to set aside short-term political differences and work for the benefit of all.”

The Lancet Health Manifesto can be viewed at from 23.30 on Friday, 7th October 2016.

To contact the RCM Press Office call 020 7312 3456 or email


Notes to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at