by Emma Petela 15th August, 2018
3 min read

It takes a village – how to support better health prevention

Shortly after becoming Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock announced his three early priorities. They are workforce, prevention and technology.

The healthcare system has changed radically since its inception 70 years ago. It is struggling to cope with the increasingly complex care requirements of patients. Prevention is increasingly seen as the way to relieve some of the pressure the healthcare system is facing, especially on secondary care providers, and secure the future of the NHS.

The inclusion of prevention as one of Hancock’s top three priorities will have been music to many ears.  It is a subject often spoken of, but not often supported with clear policy proposals. This isn’t surprising, as prevention only works if the public is actively involved in its own health. This kind of involvement presents its own challenges.

Prevention in health care can mean many things – each of which come with benefits, challenges and funding implications. Prevention can, for example, relate to bringing forward better diagnostics and screening innovations to catch diseases earlier. It is also the adoption by the public of an app which helps them manage their health, education campaigns on issues such as diabetes or lifestyle-related cancers or measures implemented by the social care sector to reduce the number of older or vulnerable people in hospitals.

Given that many preventions measures, such as public education campaigns, come with huge implications on the public purse, there is substantial scope for the private and third sectors to support the preventative agenda, through the provision of services and technology that helps people live better, healthier lives. Implementing successful preventions measures will not be easy and policymakers will be seeking solutions to a number of challenges:

Adoption of Technology

Along with concerns about patient safety, another elephant in the room with health technology is that those most likely to need it are the least likely to use it.  If technology is to help the preventative agenda, then solutions must be found to connect with harder to reach groups. These groups include the elderly, people living in rural settings, those living on low income, with disabilities or for whom English isn’t the first language. It must be ensured that they too can benefit from advancements in health technology.

Data sharing

Earlier diagnosis and management of diseases is intrinsically linked to our ability to understand them. This often comes about by looking at bit data sets. However, there is still extensive communications work to be done.  The NHS and the public need to be convinced that allowing access to your personal health data is safe. It becomes a bigger issue when allowing this data to be shared is discussed, especially with pharmaceutical companies.

Public engagement

When it boils down to it, no one can take care of their health better than the individual. However, mobilising people to take responsibility for their health demands huge investment. People need to be educated about the health risks associated with lifestyle. There also needs to be educated about the impact of our choices on the NHS, such as overreliance on A&E. There are early signs that NHS bodies are taking this seriously. There are early signs that NHS bodies are taking this seriously with the announcement that one of the focuses of the NHS 10-year plan will be prevention, personal responsibility and health inequalities. However, lots is needed to be done still to encourage us to think about health more when making decisions.

Health and care integration

Better prevention is a fundamental role for the new Integrated Care Systems. However, making ICSs (Integrated Care Systems) work isn’t without challenges. The future of ICSs is also in question. The Government needs to find a solution to the current crisis in local government funding. This crisis threatens the future of many of the stakeholders most vital to the preventative agenda. These stakeholders include social services, community groups and social care providers.

The government and the NHS alone will not be able to provide better health prevention. It will take innovation, education and cooperation to transform our health system. We need a healthcare system to which we all contribute so we ensure it can continue for another 70 years.

If you think you can contribute to the preventative agenda and would like advice on how to engage, please contact jennifer@gkstrategy.com

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