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BHF welcomes government focus on prevention in health

Wednesday 7th November 2018
The British Heart Foundation has backed a new government focus on disease prevention.
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A new government initiative aimed at making the prevention of disease more of a priority has been welcomed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), although it has said this new emphasis needs sufficient funding to work.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock spoke about the strategy as he addressed the  International Association of National Public Health Institutes. In his speech he observed that the "bulk" of preventative care is in primary care, on which the NHS spent £11 billion last year, compared with £115 billion on acute care, where the consequences of failures to prevent disease are felt. 

Mr Hancock pointed out that immunisation and efforts to discourage smoking are two examples of prevention measures started in the 20th century having positive effects, adding that the NHS will now adopt the approach used in the Canadian province of Ottawa of assisting smokers who have been admitted to hospital with heart problems to quit. 

He added that another measure that is starting to work is encouraging people to consume less salt. 

Responding to the speech, BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said: “If we're to prevent the health crisis on our horizon, we need radical action to reverse spiralling rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions which lead to preventable heart attacks and strokes. 

"Failing to act risks undoing hard fought progress in cutting heart and circulatory disease death rates - the consequences of which will be felt for a generation."

He described the focus on preventative measures as "encouraging", before adding the caveat that it is "absolutely vital" the strategy is given not just the cash, but the "other resources" required to enable it to succeed.

Many preventative measures have been backed up by higher taxes, such as duties on tobacco and alcohol, and researchers from Oxford University have now called for a tax on processed meat. 

According to the study produced by Nuffield College's Department of Population Health, levies to raise the price of red meat by 14 per cent and processed meat by 80 per cent could reduce preventable deaths in the UK by 6,000 a year.

Written by Matthew Horton

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