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NHS “must improve to tackle lifestyle challenges”

9 December 2008

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Problems such as obesity, smoking and alcohol-related illnesses are a growing problem and need to be tackled by the government through the improvement of its public health programmes, a think tank has urged.

The King’s Fund report, entitled Commissioning and Behaviour Change: Kicking Bad Habits, suggests that efforts by the NHS to encourage people to lead healthier lives would be boosted by more “sophisticated marketing techniques”, rather than the £50m that was spent on “unsuccessful” campaigns in 2007–8.

The report also found that many NHS staff lack the skills and incentives to help people choose and maintain healthier lifestyles successfully.

The report concludes that smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet and lack of exercise were deep-rooted social habits not easily changed by one-off measures, and more needs to be done to tackle these issues before they become “an epidemic.”

The report marks the end of a year-long investigation into the effectiveness of public health campaigns.

It states: “The NHS needs to invest in interventions and programmes that provide effective support to help people change their behaviour, in the short term and the longer term.

“The case for change is clear. Not only are there personal costs in terms of ill health but significant and rising costs to the NHS and to society as a whole.”

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Kings Fund