The NHS prevention plan is welcome, but healthy choices must be made easier

Today (Monday 5 November 2018) Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out his long-term vision for the NHS - and it will focus on preventing illness.

In his speech, Mr Hancock is expected to set out his aim 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.

The plan also includes ambitions to:

  • Halve childhood obesity by 2030
  • Reduce loneliness by making "social prescribing" - when doctors or nurses prescribe community activities - more widespread

To achieve this, the Health Secretary will encourage people to take more responsibility for their own health.

Rob Percival, Food for Life Policy and Campaigns Manager commented:

“The Health Secretary’s statement that the health system should focus on prevention, instead of on the treatment of ill-health, is welcome. This statement must be backed by adequate funding for public health and prevention services. Less welcome is Hancock’s suggestion that ill-health is the result of a deficit of personal responsibility. Those who are experiencing ill-health resulting from an inadequate diet don’t need a lecture on personal responsibility from politicians – they need the Government to turn rhetoric into action, they need policies that create environments in which healthier choices are easier and more affordable. Hancock should be more concerned about the implementation of the Government’s Obesity Plan – it’s over two years since the Government committed to updating the School Food Standards and introducing a Healthy Rating Scheme for primary schools. These actions are still outstanding – in this inaction, it’s the Government that’s acting irresponsibly.”

Reducing childhood obesity and reducing loneliness through Food for Life

Independent evaluation of the Food for Life school awards programme has demonstrated the positive impact the framework can have in improving the health of children. Pupils in Food for Life schools are twice as likely to eat five a day and a third less likely to eat no fruit or vegetables than pupils in comparison schools, with 45% of parents also reporting eating more vegetables as a result of Food for Life. Find out more here.

With support from the Big Lottery Fund, the Food for Life Better Care programme is showing that good food is also a good investment for the UK’s challenged health and social care system, because of the vital role it can play both nutritionally and in tackling isolation amongst older people. Read more here.