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25 September 2013

New NICE briefing to help local authorities improve people's health while also saving money

How councils can benefit from the win-win situation of improving people?s health whilst also saving money is the subject of a new public health briefing from NICE, published today.

How councils can benefit from the win-win situation of improving people's health whilst also saving money is the subject of a new public health briefing from NICE, published today (Wednesday 25 September).

To support local authorities in their newly widened remit for public health, the briefing examines how they can judge the health and economic gains that can be created by placing greater focus on 'prevention rather than cure'. To support the briefing, NICE has produced an interactive infographic which illustrates that public health interventions aren't only good value for money, but that they can also help local authorities save money.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE said: “Action to prevent ill-health improves and saves lives. In this cash-strapped economic climate, the bottom line is that these public health activities can save local authorities money. The comparatively small cost of interventions to tackle issues like obesity, physical activity and smoking is outstripped by the savings in the medium to longer-term due to improved health and related factors like greater productivity and lower benefit bills.

“The estimated overall costs for society of not tackling public health issues are huge; alcohol problems alone cost £20 billion annually in England. Based on current trends, by 2025 in Britain, obesity is predicted to cost wider society around £37 billion a year. Yet, funding public health programmes and actions now can avoid the risk of storing up costly problems for the future. NICE found that actions aimed at a whole population, such as mass-media campaigns to promote healthy eating, and legislation to reduce young people's access to cigarettes, were among the best value for money. Tackling smoking is one of the most cost-effective of all preventive strategies. An example analysis for Bury Metropolitan Council found that each pound invested in a range of smoking cessation interventions will lead to a return of £2.82 after 10 years. Smoking currently costs the NHS and businesses in Bury over £10million each year.

“This new briefing aims to make it easier for councillors and local authority staff to judge which public health actions are most effective for improving health of their communities while also providing the best value for money. The briefing highlights how addressing different health issues can benefit local communities, along with examples of good practice and quick facts and figures to make a case for action. The interactive infographic is a quick and easy way for councillors and local government staff to see at a glance how various public health activities can help improve the health and wellbeing of local people - and help them balance the books at the same time.”

Along with the briefing, NICE is also publishing an overview primer to explain the broader approach to the way that it determines whether different public health interventions offer good value for money. Until 2012, public health guidance focussed solely on a person's health benefits (their quality of life and extra length of life) resulting from an intervention and the cost of that intervention. This is called cost-utility analysis, with the benefit measured in quality adjusted life years (QALYs).

NICE public health guidance is also taking into account all relevant benefits - not only health, but also non-health and community benefits. This approach (cost-consequence and cost-benefit analysis) is to help local authorities and other organisations interested in improving people's health better judge whether or not a public health intervention represents value for money. In addition, public health guidance will report on costs and benefits over the short, medium and long-term time horizon where possible, to help local authorities with their decision-making.

Professor Kelly continued: “It's more important than ever to make best use of limited funds, and this new briefing with the supporting infographic and primer set out how councils can save resources while improving health. We hope that this practical advice will help local government as it tackles its new public health responsibilities, by showing clearly that prevention is better, and also cheaper, than cure.”


Notes to Editors

About the new Local Government Public Health Briefings

1. The new Briefing is published on 25 September 2013.

2. This new publication is part of a suite of briefing documents which NICE is producing to provide support to local government. This new area of workaims to help councillors and local authority staff find out which public health actions are most effective in improving the health of people in their area, while also providing the best value for money. Based on recommendations from existing NICE public health and clinical guidance, the briefings have been developed with input from the independentLocal Government Reference Group. The group comprises councillors, local government officers, and others with an interest in community health and wellbeing. The new briefings are in addition to NICE's ongoing programme producing public health guidance. Topics covered include tobacco, physical activity and workplace health, alcohol, health inequalities and behaviour change.

3. NICE is publishing two further Local Government Briefings today on Social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people, and Tuberculosis in vulnerable groups, also available at the link above.

About NICE

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent body responsible for driving improvement and excellence in the health and social care system. We develop guidance, standards and information on high-quality health and social care. We also advise on ways to promote healthy living and prevent ill health.

Formerly the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, our name changed on 1 April 2013 to reflect our new and additional responsibility to develop guidance and set quality standards for social care, as outlined in the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

Our aim is to help practitioners deliver the best possible care and give people the most effective treatments, which are based on the most up-to-date evidence and provide value for money, in order to reduce inequalities and variation.

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