21 November 2018

Will Matt Hancock's 'Prevention Plan' increase life expectancy?


Quit smoking. Eat well. Take more exercise. These aren't only instructions to follow if you're looking to improve your day-to-day health. They're also preventative measures to live by in order to avoid a variety of chronic health conditions in later life. 

Thousands of people in the UK could avoid early death from one of the five most common killers: cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and liver disease - all of which can be triggered by one or a combination of heavy drinking, smoking, and obesity. 

"We have made great progress in improving the health of the nation.

"However, people are spending too many years in poor health, with these gains in health not felt equally across society. But this is not inevitable; much of ill health could be prevented.

"Prevention is crucial to improving the health of the whole population, and helping secure the health and social care services we all value and rely on. It will also boost the health of our economy." 

These are the words of Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, in his Prevention is better than cure vision document, which sets out how we can use technology, workplace strategies and the power of local communities to support people with health issues and prevent worsening health.

Matt Hancock's end goal within the framework of this new plan is for people to have five more years of healthy, independent life by 2035. UK life expectancy is currently 82.9 years for women, and 79.2 for men and has been subject to much debate since the release of the Office for National Statistics life expectancy report, which showed that the UK has had the lowest rate of improvement in life expectancy since 2011 among western nations, other than the USA. 

To achieve this, he is encouraging people to take more responsibility for their own health.

Hancock says: "It's about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking.

"Making better choices by limiting alcohol, sugar, salt, and fat."

"It's about helping them make better choices, giving them all the support we can because we know taking the tough decisions is never easy."

The plan also states his ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030, reduce loneliness by making "social prescribing" - when doctors or nurses prescribe community activities - more widespread, diagnosing 75% of cancers at stages one and two by 2028 and use technology to predict patients' illnesses and target advice at sections of the population.

In the UK, we spend £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it each year. 

To answer the encompassing question: 'Will the Health Secretary's 'Prevention Plan' increase life expectancy?', the answer depends on the willpower of the nation.

While the majority are already well-versed in the knowledge that smoking, drinking alcohol and eating rubbish aren't exactly good for us, the real challenge lies in establishing successful methods of changing public attitude towards these everyday health dangers - if we are ever to achieve increased life expectancy through prevention. 

What do you think? Is Matt Hancock's prevention goal achievable? Let us know by commenting or Tweeting us @NewcrossHealth