Are we on the cusp of a step change in health behaviours?

Are we on the cusp of a step change in health behaviours?

According to weekend headlines, this week’s annual Ofsted Report will highlight that the solution to tackling spiralling levels of obesity lies in the home. The clear message is that parents should not ‘abdicate responsibility’.

By the time children start primary school, almost a quarter of children in England are obese or overweight, underlining the urgency in adopting healthier lifestyles. But leaving the responsibility for making healthy choices to individuals and families alone is not enough to stem the tide of this chronic condition.

New figures from NHS Digital reveal that diabetes prescriptions have now soared to more than £1 billion a year, with treatments for largely preventable type-2 diabetes now accounting for nine out of ten cases.

Patient groups, healthcare professionals and marketers operating across the health spectrum have long been championing healthy choices and healthy lifestyles. And yet the need for better health prevention becomes increasingly critical.

Initiatives such as the ‘sugar tax’ on soft drinks have shown the positive impact of industry working closely with government to improve health behaviours.

Government legislation continues to be an important factor in driving change - and greater restrictions are imminent -but it’s not enough to fundamentally change the way that people think, feel and behave.

Headlines from the Health Secretary’s recent ‘prevention is better than cure’ vision signify a communications shift from treatment to prevention, which is a critical first step.  But, to truly change behaviour, health marketers and healthcare professionals must find a better way to connect with people and families. 

Matt Hancock V2
Matt Hancock launching annual reports

Matt Hancock’s headline recommendation was ‘social prescribing’, recognising that people’s health is determined by a range of social, economic and environmental factors. While it’s not a new approach to improving health and wellbeing, people are increasingly influenced by the community in which they live their daily lives.  Particularly when it comes to adopting health behaviours.
 
Social environments play such a critical role in developing and shaping long term habits – so inevitably they are integral to inspiring change.

In a world where connectivity is driving our social culture, health marketers across the spectrum need to focus on community driven conversations. Building authentic dialogue that taps into cultural needs and values is essential to enable people to take greater care of their health and their children’s health for the long term.

The Health Secretary’s vision paves the way for a 2019 public health green paper. A community approach is expected to be at the core of the recommendations, reinforcing the importance of increased commitment from the government to supporting people in their daily environment.

With health marketers and industry following suit, working collaboratively towards delivering an integrated community message, 2019 could see the start of the prevention message becoming an intrinsic part of everyday values. 

And that would be a critical step towards tackling the obesity epidemic.

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Portraits_Circular_Alison_Dunlop

Alison Dunlop

Managing Director, Health

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