Report calls for bold action to prevent early deaths

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 07 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3172
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. London

A new report has forecast that 250 000 people in the United Kingdom will die from preventable conditions by 2025 unless major action is taken.1

The report, by a coalition of UK health and social care charities, identifies 12 interventions that could reduce deaths and disability caused by long term illnesses such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, and dementia. The interventions target smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, and physical inactivity.

The World Health Organisation has set a target for a 25% reduction in the numbers of early deaths from common long term conditions between 2010 and 2025. The Richmond Group of Charities, a coalition of 12 organisations led by Diabetes UK, commissioned a research project looking at the WHO target as a benchmark against which to measure UK trends. The report concluded that without further action the UK would narrowly miss the WHO targets. It added that these targets were unambitious and called on the UK government to take bold action to save even more lives and reduce disability.

The report modelled four possible interventions in depth to assess their effect on mortality and disability over 10 years. It found that there would be 26 000 fewer deaths if food was reformulated to reduce salt, sugar, and portion sizes and 2450 fewer deaths if tobacco tax was raised. In addition, brief advice on physical activity delivered through general practices could result in the avoidance of 98 000 years lived with disability. A further restriction on alcohol marketing would result in 86 000 years lived with disability being avoided, the study showed.

The report’s lead author, Peter Scarborough, joint programme lead for diet and nutrition at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, said, “This report shows how maintaining a strong focus on public health—which has led to important breakthroughs like salt reduction in processed foods, banning smoking in public places, and the introduction of front-of-pack food labelling over the last 15 years—will result in us nearly achieving the WHO targets for premature mortality by 2025. But to achieve these targets we need to be even bolder and increase our efforts to improve public health and make healthy choices easy choices.”

Russell Viner, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, commented, “Today’s report acts as a stark reminder of just how poor the nation’s health will be if action isn’t taken now. But this action must have an emphasis on children and young people if it is to make real impact.

“We know that if children lead healthy lives, they are much more likely to continue on that trajectory as they transition into adulthood. So policies like reformulation of foods to reduce salt, sugar, and portion size as recommended in today’s report is something we would support.”


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