People in England are being encouraged to cut back on alcohol, sugar, salt and fat in a bid to boost the nation’s life expectancy by five years and reduce the pressure on the NHS.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that 10 times more money is spent on treating diseases than preventing them.
The new encouragements come as part of the Health Secretary’s long-term vision for the NHS and sit alongside ambitions to halve childhood obesity, reduce loneliness, diagnose 75% of cancers at stages one and two by 2028, and using technology to predict patients’ illnesses
The prevention plan also recommends that employers do more to ensure their staff stay healthy, following increasing research that suggests sitting for long periods of time can have a damaging impact on workers’ health.
Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there needs to be a strong culture shift if diseases are to be prevented.
He said: “For too long the NHS has seen itself as essentially the National Hospital Service, with primary care and GPs round the side.
“I want to see it as the health service of the nation, helping people to stay healthier.”
With the UK life expectancy currently standing at 82.9 years for women and 79.2 years for men, the Health Secretary hopes that a culture shift will help people have five more years of healthy, independent life by 2035.
He explained: “It’s about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking.
“Making better choices by limiting alcohol, sugar, salt and fat.”
However, he emphasises that the new push for healthier choices is not designed to penalise people.
He added: “It’s about helping them make better choices and giving them all the support we can, because we know taking the tough decisions is never easy.”
Last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond promised an extra £20.5bn to the NHS over the next five years, but it’s unclear how much of this will be spent on the next preventative measures introduced by Mr Hancock.