Public Health

Preventing ill-health.

Family going for a walk

The Challenge

Helping everyone stay active and well, preventing ill health and supporting recovery, is a priority across the UK. Support for developing healthy habits and lifestyles can be harder to access in more isolated and smaller communities.

How healthy we are is affected by wider factors from the quality of housing to one’s ability to access services or find employment. Communities can support public health in many ways, offering volunteering opportunities or employment, selling specific goods or services and providing information. And living in the countryside can make is easier, for example, to enjoy being outdoors or eat healthy, locally grown food.

Nice veg

Unhealthy lifestyles cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. Smoking costs £5.2 billion, obesity £4.2 billion, alcohol £3.5 billion and physical inactivity £1.1 billion.

Kings Fund

Good health and well-being are about more than healthcare. A good start in life, education, decent work and housing and strong, supportive relationships all play their part.

David Heymann, Chair / Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive, Public Health England

Public Health England Strategic Plan

What can we do?

Co-operative shops, pubs, farms and woodlands all can, and do, play a big part in their communities already. The challenge is to build on this and see what else may be needed in your particular community. This could be with the help of local government whose public health responsibilities include:

  • Nutrition, such as access to healthy foods, promoting a balanced diet and cooking skills
  • Exercise, from green gyms and health walks to sports, dance and seated exercise
  • Dependency and addiction, including stopping smoking, responsible drinking and more
  • Hygiene, at home and in businesses (especially those handling food)
  • Screening programmes and reducing the spread of infections, such as ‘flu but also sexually transmitted diseases.

New technologies such as ‘fitbits’ (activity trackers worn like a watch) and online access to information also help tackle this particular challenge. Here, communities can play a role in supporting each other and in ensuring good broadband and internet provision.

Just under half of the disability adjusted life years lost in the UK are attributable to diet, smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight, and alcohol and drug use.

Public Health England

Strategic Plan for the next four years: Better outcomes by 2020

Further information

Check out these links for further help and information about this project.