Daily Archives: 06/12/2014

Improving how we live our lives

Public Health England (PHE) has published its 7 priorities for the next 5 years, with ‘reducing harmful drinking’ listed after actions on smoking and obesity.

Download From evidence into action: opportunities to protect and improve the nation’s health’ [pdf]

I’m not going to discuss the report per se as I was a little underwhelmed by it myself and that is not a new position for me so I don’t want to flog a dead horse.

What did catch my eye was this graphic included:

premature death PHE stats

In the US, McGinnis et al show how healthcare plays an important though proportionately
small role in preventing early deaths. Similar studies have supported these findings in the UK.  Improving how we live our lives offers far greater opportunity for improving health.
Although this was the focus of this pie-chart for PHE what I was struck by was how much environmental factors played a part.  What I mean by that is that we can’t change the genetic predisposition or the choice that healthcare do or don’t take to intervene in the silent public health epidemic like alcohol.  However what we can change is the other factors which make up 60% of this pie – behavioural patterns, environmental exposure and social circumstances.
I know that the argument is that education doesn’t work but change on a cultural scale and working with people does work.  You only have to look at the statistics for Stoptober and the success of smoking cessation to know that it can and does work.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that the number of smokers in England has hit a record low, with smokers now accounting for only 18.4% of the population in 2013, a drop of 1.1% compared to 2012. And according to UCL’s Smoking Toolkit Study, smoking rates are continuing to fall in 2014. Those who successfully took part in Stoptober and didn’t smoke for 28 days are now 5 times more likely to remain smoke free, contributing to the growing numbers of non-smokers nationwide.
If it can be done with smoking, it can be done with drinking and I don’t mean the whole country stopping drinking but a shift in cultural attitude toward binge and heavy drinking.
What do you think?