The UK will fail to meet international commitments on reducing deaths from preventable diseases unless it prioritises the prevention of ill health, warn leading health charities.
Without a national plan for health improvement, led by the Prime Minister, the World Health Organisation’s target of reducing preventable deaths by 25% by 2025 simply will not be met.
The call was made in a new report – What is preventing progress? – from The Richmond Group of Charities, of which Diabetes UK is a member, which makes clear that if this goal is to be achieved, local and national government, the NHS, public services, the private sector, charities and patients must work together to put prevention first.
The report highlights that taking action to tackle common risk factors such as smoking, inactivity, unhealthy diet and alcohol would drastically reduce the number of people affected by common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease,Type 2diabetes, asthma and stroke, while helping to prevent or delay the onset of conditions like dementia. The report also emphasises the importance of supporting those who already suffer from long term conditions so that they can take control of their condition, and reduce the risk of a life-threatening episode, a condition progressing or other illnesses developing.
Last month, NHS England formally recognised the need for a radical upgrade in prevention and public health as part of its NHS Five Year Forward View. This ambition offers a welcome momentum, which political leaders should seize to make clear that they too are getting serious about prevention.The report outlines nine key calls to action through which political leaders and key decision-makers can ensure disease prevention is placed at the top of the agenda. These include:
- A national plan for health improvement, led by the Prime Minister
- Making public health the business of all Government, with all new policies and publicly funded programmes being assessed for their impact on health, and
- Making prevention a key consideration in local authority responsibilities.
The report highlights that while real action on prevention must be led from the very top – by the Prime Minister – it must also be prioritised throughout government, reaching across health through to education, housing, transport, planning, licensing and regulation.Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “The fact that the government is set to miss its targets for reducing preventable deaths highlights why we urgently need them to start getting to grips with the huge challenge preventable conditions such as Type 2 diabetes presents.
“With ever increasing millions of us living with Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer and millions more at great risk of developing these conditions, this is a battle we simply can't afford to lose. As it is, the rise of these conditions is leading to unsustainable costs to the NHS, soaring rates of devastating complications and ultimately early deaths.“This is why we need the Government to take a much tougher line on prevention. While we welcome the Government’s plans to establish a national Type 2 diabetes prevention programme, it also needs to ensure that those at risk are given the lifestyle support that they need to reduce their risk. Making it as easy as possible for people to make healthy choices and lead fit and active lives must be a much higher priority than it is now.”