People must take more responsibility for managing their own health, the health minister has said, as he launched the latest NHS long-term strategy.
The paper, entitled “Prevention is better than cure” argues for a shift towards primary and community care services, which help people stay well. Labour representatives have said the aims were “laudable”, but warned the government was planning a further £1bn worth of cuts to health services, including public health, next year.
Addressing the Annual Meeting of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes, Mr Hancock said: “Prevention is … about ensuring people take greater responsibility for managing their own health. It’s about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking,
“Making better choices by limiting alcohol, sugar, salt and fat.
“But focusing on the responsibilities of patients isn’t about penalising people. It’s about helping them make better choices, giving them the all the support we can because we know taking the tough decisions is never easy.”
Public Health England will look at “harnessing digital technology” as a form of “predictive prevention”, potentially leading to targeted health advice for people based on their location and lifestyle.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive Public Health England, said: “We need to move from a system that detects and treats illnesses to one that also predicts and prevents poor health through promoting health in all policies and puts people back in charge of their own health.”
The government’s ambitions to improve public health include reducing loneliness, halving childhood obesity by 2030 and diagnosing three-quarters of cancers at stages 1 and 2 by 2028.
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said:
“The Tories have imposed swingeing cuts to public health services, slashing vital prevention support such as smoking cessation services, sexual health services, substance misuse services and obesity help.
“In local communities, years of cuts and failed privatisation have resulted in health visitor and school nurse numbers falling, whilst children are losing out on the key early years’ health interventions they need.
“Many of the aims announced today are laudable but the reality is currently a further £1bn worth of cuts to health services including public health are set to be imposed by this Government next year.”
He added that unless the cuts were reversed, the green paper would “be dismissed as a litany of hollow promises”.
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