So-called "health trainers" are to be deployed to 12 of the most deprived parts of England, including the West Midlands, the Government said today.
The trainers, who will devise personalised plans to improve people's well-being, are part of last year's Public Health White Paper's pledge to reduce health inequalities across the country.
A report says that as yet there had been no reduction in the health gap between the best and worst off. But it said there were signs that progress had been made in key areas such as child poverty and heart disease, which were likely to contribute to the gap narrowing in the future.
The 12 areas named as the first to benefit from health trainers - including Birmingham and the Black Country - will each receive £200,000 in extra funding to provide personalised plans for people to improve health and prevent disease like cancer and heart disease.
After targeting the most disadvantaged areas, the scheme will extend to the rest of England in 2007.
Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: "Many people have difficulty in changing to a healthier way of life. There is support for people but it may be available at the wrong time of day or only accessible to people who speak and read English well, and access can be unequal and erratic. Health trainers are designed to address these problems. They will give support to local people in their communities and provide information to help them develop personal health plans and carry them out.
"This might include giving a pregnant woman information about her local stop smoking services or accompanying a woman to a breast screening appointment.
"Equally, health trainers will identify barriers to individuals making healthier choices and help find solutions to get over them."
The Department of Health also published a report on progress in tackling health inequalities, overseen by its scientific reference group.
The DoH said, as expected at this early stage, the group found no reduction in the health gap and said a significant challenge remained.
The Government wants to reduce inequalities in health outcomes by at least ten per cent by 2010 - as measured by infant mortality and life expectancy at birth.
Some progress towards cutting inequalities noted in the report included a drop of nearly a fifth in children living in low income households between 1998/99 and 2003/04.