Prevention in the age of information: Public education for better health
Tackling preventative illness must remain a top priority for the government in the 2020s. Over half of the disease burden in England is deemed preventable, with one in five deaths attributed to causes that could have been avoided. After many years of improvement, progress has stalled on reducing the number of people suffering from preventable illness. Moreover, compared to other high-income countries, we underperform on this metric.
This is not good enough, as the government has recognised in its prevention green paper and the NHS Long Term Plan. The government must deliver a paradigm shift in prevention policy from interventions that ‘blame and punish’ to those that ‘empathise and assist’. The aim of prevention policy is to drive behaviour change: to help people make better health decisions.
Any new prevention strategy must take into account the new information environment that has resulted from technological advancement. The internet is increasingly the first point of call for people searching for information or advice about their health.