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Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’ Green Paper

The Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) have published their Prevention Green Paper consultation. This consultation feedback needs to be returned by 14 October 2019. Last year the Government’s mission was set in the Ageing Society Grand Challenge to “ensure that people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest”.

The key areas of focus for the ABI will be to demonstrate the positive role that insurance plays in prevention through its support for the mental and physical health of the UK workforce.


Over 20% of years lived are expected to be in poor health. People in deprived areas tend to heave lower life expectancy and spent a larger proportion of those years in poor health than those in less deprived area. Those in deprived areas also have worse physical and mental health and have less access to the support they need. With increasing pressure on the NHS to ‘fix things when they go wrong’, the Government are working towards 2020s being the decade where people are not just passive recipients of care; they will be active in taking responsibility to preserve their own health by being equipped with the skills to help themselves. 

‘Disability-free life expectancy at birth’ is what the Government’s mission aims to set i.e. no expectations of a mental or physical condition that’s long term and affects day-to-day activities. The mission’s success criteria is to increase disability-free life expectancy in England from 62 and 63 years to 67 and 68 for women and men respectively by 2035 (four months more per year). Since these figures have stabilised in recent years, the Government has recognised it needs to take bold steps forward to achieve these targets.

The three ways in which these steps must be taken are outlines as:

  1. Finding opportunities for prevention strategies;
  2. Tackling major public health challenges facing the UK through prevention;
  3. Building strong foundations to help people to embrace healthier decisions.


The NHS Long Term Plan already contains a section on prevention which aims to prevent disease and illness by implementing measures for issues such as smoking and obesity.

By using intelligent public health, people can receive personalised support and advice that need it, get precision medicine and tackle current and future threats.

Predictive Prevention phase 1 will begin this year between PHE, NHSX and other partners which will include building trust with the public about how data can improve their experience and refining the analysis approach to identify those must vulnerable.

Intelligent screening can be used to prevent and detect conditions. Some of the NHS’s visions for the future include better access to screening and more stratified screening by identifying high and low-risk groups.

Intelligent Health Checks can be used to increase the uptake of the current NHS Health Checks which people aged 40 to 74 are given a free check-up of their overall health, every 5 years. This includes increasing the focus and uptake of high-risk groups and considering ways to make the delivery more tailored.

Precision Medicine using genomic approaches has been advancing quickly in the UK. These can be used to detect many common diseases and cancers. The UK want to continue leading the innovation in genomic healthcare, for example in the new Accelerating Detection of Disease challenge, 5 million genomic analyses and planned to be carried out using 1 million whole genomes from NHS patients and participants in the UK Biobank by 2023-2024.

By tackling current and future threats, challenges faced by the NHS such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the declining uptake in vaccinations will have programmes and long-term plans put in place to address and prevent these issues from their effects in the future.



Tackling smoking has been one of the more successful traditional public health interventions in recent decades, however it still poses as a main risk to health along with obesity and mental health issues. We have one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe, however the Government has set ambitions to go ‘smoking-free’ by 2030 which includes the industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030. The efforts the Government wish to make to achieve this goal are by discouraging people to start smoking and support to help smokers quit.

Healthy Weight Maintenance

The Government plan to reduce childhood obesity rates by 50% by 2030 with a focus on making food and drink available to families healthier. Consultations have been released and policies have been enforced to try to shape the public’s unhealthy decisions.

Mental Health

The Government have provided greater access to mental health services to close the treatment gap between mental and physical health by increased spending on mental health services to achieve parity of esteem. The Government will take further actions such as launching a mental health prevention package which includes the national launch of Every Mind Matters.

Stronger Foundations

The public’s attitude to health should shift from a dependence on the NHS to treat us during ill health to health being an asset for us as individuals to invest in to prevent illness. Nationally and locally, the Government should look for improving conditions for good health.

The UK Government have pledged to launch a new health index to help us track the health of the nation, alongside other top-level indicators like GDP.

Creating healthier workplaces has also been consulted on by the government on ways the Government can improve access to occupational health for employers to reduce ill health-related job loss. As well as this consultation, the government will also look on how to align support for people with mental and physical health conditions across the NHS, employers and occupational health to ensure support is available.

Next Steps

This green paper is seeking views on the proposals it’s made about how to best tackle the causes of preventable ill health in England. I     t asks for opinions on preventative policies, how programmes can be improved and good examples of successful local schemes and initiatives. This consultation closes on 14 October 2019.

Following the approval in principle given by both the Protection and Health Committees on 5 June, we are currently in the process of finalising approval to proceed with the finalised scope for the proposed research with the Social Market Foundation (SMF). Since the Committee meetings, we have worked with the SMF and some members of the Steering Group to refine the scope and discuss how best the SMF can utilise existing data and resources. We hope to begin this research project as soon as possible to provide meaningful evidence to the DHSC with regards to the positive role of insurance in supporting the mental and physical health of the UK workforce.

If you have any questions, please contact Charlie Campbell.