NICE issues guidance to encourage people to make resolutions for life, not just New Year

New guidance from NICE will support everyone wanting to be healthier permanently, by eating well, being more active, stopping smoking and sticking to safe drinking limits.

Many people start the New Year wanting to change and become healthier but they are often unsupported, and struggle to stick to their resolutions. The guidance from NICE will help health services and local authorities make the most of their resources to promote a culture of health in their areas using the evidence about what works - and what helps people to make those changes permanent.

The NICE guidance will help health and social care professionals, as well as local authorities and local and national policy-makers implement robust, evidence-based activities aimed at improving individuals' health and wellbeing, and tackling health inequalities. Because the guidance will help organisations to invest in services for individuals that work and last, they will also make financial sense to implement. The guidance will help to introduce services for people who are open to change - for instance new parents, or people diagnosed with an illness, or even those making New Year's resolutions.

The guidance published today identifies features of successful, cost-effective change interventions across several health-related behaviours. NICE has also published detailed guidance on how to change behaviour and improve health in specific areas, appropriate to where and how people live. This includes interventions that will support people to:

  • improve their diet and become more physically active
  • lose weight if they are overweight or obese
  • stop smoking
  • reduce their alcohol intake

The guidance complements existing NICE public health guidance[1] on alcohol[2], obesity[3], physical activity[4], and smoking[5].

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre of Public Health at NICE explained: “The way each person lives from day to day has long-term implications for them personally as well as the rest of society. Although the causes of disease are not straightforward, they are often avoidable. This guidance is aimed at helping people to stay healthy by making changes to the way they live. The guidance is wide-ranging: it will help health and social care professionals to find out what works to improve health where they are and to ensure that individuals make resolutions that last for their lifetime not simply a few days or weeks.”

Paul Lincoln, chair of the Programme Development Group and chief executive of the UK Health Forum, added: “After Christmas and New Year, many of us are determined to drink less, quit smoking, do more exercise or eat healthier, but it becomes overwhelming and our resolve crumbles. This new guidance from NICE is aimed at one simple idea: helping people to live healthier lives by ensuring that health and social care budgets are spent on activities that work. The guidance advises people whose job is to help all of us live more healthily - from national policy-makers to health or social care professionals. Improving health is complicated; it can range from tailoring healthy eating programmes to suit a person's individual needs, to national initiatives aimed at improving everyone's health such as banning smoking in workplaces.”

The guidance:

This NICE guidance recommends that services and interventions should include techniques to help people make the changes that will improve their health. The activities should be proven to be successful at helping people to change - for instance to quit smoking or lose weight. (Recommendations 3 and 7 include techniques that are shown to be effective[6].)

NICE says local authorities should establish if residents have access to the right behaviour change services to improve their health, based on local need. They should work with local people to develop health programmes tailored to the needs of people in their area. The guidance advises that resources should be concentrated appropriately so that people who are the most socially disadvantaged are given the greatest support.

In addition, the guidance recommends:

  • National and local policy-makers, commissioners and their partners should find out whether behaviour change interventions and programmes that are already in place are effective, cost-effective and apply evidence-based principles.
  • Behaviour change interventions and programmes should be planned taking local needs and communities, into account, tailoring them accordingly.
  • People providing behaviour change programmes should ensure interventions meet individual needs:
    • Give service users clear information on the behaviour change interventions and services available, how to use them. If necessary, help should be given to people to access the services.
    • Ensure services are acceptable to, and meet, service users' needs. This includes any needs in relation to a disability or another ‘protected characteristic' in relation to equity.
    • Recognise the times when people may be more open to change, for instance at a life changing moment (such as becoming a parent) or when hearing a medical diagnosis (such as heart disease or diabetes).
  • Commissioners and providers of behaviour change services should encourage health, wellbeing and social care staff in direct contact with the general public to consider different types of interventions.
  • Providers and practitioners working with behaviour change programmes should keep in touch with clients to help them keep to the changes they have made and to support them if they are struggling. They need to be ready to help people who are having difficulties with fresh ideas and advice.
  • National organisations that support the monitoring, collection and surveillance of routine date should work together to:
    • Determine what routine data health, social care and voluntary organisations should record on health-related behaviours (such as alcohol use and smoking)
    • Use the data to monitor the outcomes of activities to improve the public's health.
    • Spot and track trends regionally and in social groups to see where different activities should be targeted.


For more information call the NICE press office on 0845 003 7782 or out of hours on 07775 583 813.

Notes to Editors

The guideline is available to view at: ph49 from Thursday 2 January 2014.

Embargoed copies are available upon request from the NICE press office.

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.

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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This page was last updated: 30 December 2013