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Public Health: Pressure and Prevention

15 July 2015

The last piece I wrote for Odgers Interim’s Perspective newsletter (Healthtech: Technology & Healthcare, October 2014) was centred around how the NHS could leverage technology better to return to its roots of being a preventative organisation as opposed to a reactive one.

Having read Simon Stevens’ Five year forward view which calls for the NHS to get serious about prevention and about the need for a radical upgrade in public health, I thought I’d revisit the subject.

With the report From evidence into action: opportunities to protect and improve the nation’s health produced by the Royal Society for Public Health and Public Health England setting out the public health priorities for the next five years, it would appear that prevention is now being taken seriously. 

So what’s the current state of affairs? Increased pressures on the NHS from lifestyle related health issues are costing the NHS c. £60bn a year, resulting in real financial problems. With this in mind, it is now essential that improvements are made to the population’s health and wellbeing. Surely the objective should now be to build sustainable health and care services, to ensure that these pressures and burdens are removed. 

To move towards a longer term sustainable change, one of the main challenges we face is: How do we achieve a shift in the behaviours of the population? 

We can, of course use technology; we can introduce new approaches that give people the tools to change their behaviours. We can also support and educate people better about their lifestyle choices with the aim of making them responsible for their own health. But in truth, the reality could be that unless the Public Health workforce has the right skills and motivation to deliver the level of change required, it is unlikely to happen. 

To get to where we need to be is a long road. Better collaboration and education is needed between the NHS, its staff and the general public. A working partnership focussed on driving real change is what we now need if we are to see any valuable improvements. And what could be more valuable than the health of the next generation?

Nick Behan, Consultant

Nick is a Consultant in the Life Sciences practice, read Nick's profile

Categories: Healthcare, Life Sciences


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