BDA urges government to back up DHSC’s “Prevention is better than cure” green paper with funding and targets

BDA urges government to back up DHSC’s “Prevention is better than cure” green paper with funding and targets

05 November 2018

The BDA welcomes the new vision from the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) for improving public health and putting prevention at the heart of our health services, but calls on government to recognise that it must reverse the cuts made to public health services if this is to become a reality.

The “prevention is better than cure” green paper sets out an ambitious and laudable vision that by 2035 people in the UK will gain five extra years of healthy, independent life, while also reducing health inequalities. As diet is one of the single biggest modifiable factors in determining health, improving the nation’s diet must be a top priority in any successful prevention strategy, with dietitians playing a key role as experts in nutrition and behaviour change.

While initial commitments in areas such as national childhood obesity policy have been promising, government has been undermining its own efforts by cutting funding to those that deliver public health services locally. For example, dietetic weight management services in some of the most deprived areas of the UK have been cut back or removed entirely. Posts are disappearing across the country as councils have been forced to deal with cuts in their public health budgets of £600 million from 2015/16 to 2019/20. Government needs to recognise the short-sightedness of this approach.

The strategy is right to recognise that we need to move beyond the rhetoric of a prevention focused NHS to the practical delivery of these services. However, this will require ministers and the public to get behind such a shift and accept that this means changing focus from acute and clinical areas. The NHS continues to be judged both by government and the press by measures such as A&E, cancer care and planned operations waiting times. The public will rightly continue to expect the NHS to deliver on these targets and it is understandable that healthcare professionals, managers and commissioners will continue to prioritise them while they do. The government must set targets for prevention on an equal footing if they really want to see the 5% of funding currently spent on prevention increase.

We are pleased to see the strategy recognises that systemic and environmental issues play a huge role in deciding public health. This is why it is so important that government follow through on its commitments to areas such as sugar and calorie reformulation, restricting advertising of HFSS foods and improving school food standards. It is positive to see that wider determinants of health, such as housing, poverty, employment and loneliness have been recognised, as they impact directly on issues such as diet and nutrition and must be addressed as part of a holistic strategy.

The BDA has identified prevention and public health as a key priority for dietetics, and our Chair, Caroline Bovey, has made it the focus of her two-year term. Our recent Dietitians Week campaign also focused on the important role all dietitians (both acute and public health based) have to play in delivering on the prevention agenda.

We will engage closely with government while they develop this strategy and highlight the important role dietitians can play.

Further Notes:

  • The British Dietetic Association (BDA), founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 9,000 members.
  • Dietitians are highly qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. They are statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), alongside other Allied Health Professions.
  • Dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. They work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government and global industry to local communities and individuals.

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