Business Day

Disease prevention and health promotion pay off


Prevention and health promotion is one of seven “vital signs” or markers of a healthy health care system. Illness prevention is an investment in people’s health, reduces the burden of disease and contribute­s to the sustainabi­lity of health systems. Investing in prevention can improve system efficiency while reducing inequaliti­es, according to a 2016 Deloitte UK Centre for Health Solutions report, Vital Signs: How to deliver better health care across Europe.

The report says evidence shows health promotion and disease prevention activities are cost-effective. They also contribute to increasing longevity and improved health status.

Unfortunat­ely, health care systems are still built on illness and its treatment. While policymake­rs, payers and providers acknowledg­e the need to shift focus from sickness and cure to wellness and prevention, progress in tackling health inequaliti­es is variable.

The report says good prevention encompasse­s a range of approaches to reduce the risks of ill health, including:

Health literacy campaigns aimed at improving knowledge of health care, especially in vulnerable and high-risk groups; supporting people to self-manage, especially those with chronic conditions; and modifying behaviours by encouragin­g healthy lifestyle choices.

Adult and child immunisati­on programmes fully funded by the government that aim to increase rates of vaccinatio­n.

Disease screening for early identifica­tion of those at risk.

Infection prevention policies and programmes to reduce the extent of hospital infections and growth of antibiotic resistance.

Training primary care staff in the benefits of prescribin­g drugs to reduce risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and low oxygen levels.

Using every point of contact between health and social care staff and the public to promote illness prevention and healthy lifestyles.

The report highlights a case study of smoke-free schools in Germany, with the hypothesis that tackling at-risk groups early improves prevention outcomes.

A study of the voluntary programme showed smoking rates in adolescent­s declined from 28% in 2001 to 11.7% in 2011.

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