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23 January 2013

NICE support for local government on walking and cycling and behaviour change

NICE publishes two new public health briefings covering how different parts of local government can contribute to encouraging and enabling walking and cycling in local communities, and the general principles that should be used when commissioning initiatives to change health behaviours.

NICE today (Wednesday 23 January) publishes new support for local authorities in its Local Government Public Health Briefings on walking and cycling and behaviour change.

The two new briefings cover how different parts of local government can contribute to encouraging and enabling walking and cycling in local communities, and the general principles that should be used when commissioning initiatives to change health behaviours.

Local government is preparing to take on a wider remit for public health in communities from April 2013. To provide support, NICE has started producing specially tailored briefings 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 independent Local Government Reference Group (LGRG). The LGRG comprises councillors, local government officers, and others with an interest in community health and wellbeing.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE said: “We're pleased to publish the third batch of Local Government Public Health Briefings which summarise our main guidance recommendations relating to walking and cycling, as well as our advice on behaviour change. The importance of tackling each issue, and how local communities will benefit as a result, are set out in these tailored documents.

“Illnesses linked to inactivity such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer cost the NHS an estimated £1.06 billion each year in the UK. The wider costs of lost productivity in England estimated to be £5.5 billion a year. Encouraging and enabling walking and cycling not only improves health and wellbeing, but also reduces congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. Cyclists and pedestrians also provide a substantial economic boost to local shopping streets. The power to support walking and cycling sits across many areas of local authority work, including the development of local plans, road safety, core strategies and joint health and wellbeing strategies. The walking and cycling briefing sets out what actions can be taken to make a real difference.

“Interventions to change behaviour can have a significant impact on levels of chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer which have links to behaviours and lifestyle factors that can be changed. Focussing on health-related behaviour change, the second briefing published today may be particularly relevant to health and wellbeing boards carrying out joint strategic needs assessment and creating joint health and wellbeing strategies. The principles covered could also be useful for planning and delivering behaviour change in other areas of local government work such as promoting school attendance, reducing littering and improving recycling.

“Addressing both of these issues will help local authorities meet their forthcoming statutory duties to improve the health of their communities. The examples of good practice given in the briefings, along with quick facts and figures, make a case for action. We hope that this practical advice will help local government to make best use of limited funds, with the potential to save resources while improving the health of local people.”

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “I welcome NICE's briefing for local government on walking and cycling, to support ways of improving community health through increasing physical activity. Making it easier for people to engage in active travel also benefits the local environment by reducing the amount of traffic on our roads. This summary, which includes the guidance published last November, will make the key recommendations accessible to a range of professionals across transport, health and other disciplines, helping local government to develop effective policies, plans and activities to promote walking and cycling.”

Examples of effective recommendations highlighted in the new briefings include:

  • Walking and cycling:
    • address key barriers to walking and cycling such as reducing road danger and the perception of road danger, use road design and engineering measures to reduce motor vehicle speed as well as changes to speed limits
    • ensure local strategy, policy and planning support walking and cycling, making sure that planning applications for new developments always prioritise the need for people to be physically active as a routine part of their daily life
    • put in place local programmes to support walking and cycling, which could include community-wide events, such as mass participation walking groups, community challenges and ‘walkathons', and intensive sessions in particular settings or aimed at particular groups, such as ‘Bike to work' weeks, workplace challenges, activities aimed at children and families.
  • Behaviour change:
    • plans to change health-related behaviour should be informed by the circumstances in which people live, especially the socioeconomic and cultural context, and assess potential barriers to change (such as lack of access to affordable opportunities for physical activity)
    • prioritise interventions and programmes that help develop social approval for health-enhancing behaviours in local communities and whole populations
    • ensure clarity about which level a programme or intervention is aimed at, so that the components of population, community or individual-level interventions can be tailored appropriately. For example, interventions for individuals which could include support for people to plan their changes in terms of easy steps over time, including explicit ‘if-then' coping strategies to prevent relapse.

Local Government Public Health Briefings previously prepared by NICE include health inequalities and tackling tobacco use. All of the Briefings are available on the NICE website.


Notes to Editors

About the new Local Government Public Health Briefings

1. The new Briefings are published on 23 January 2013, and will be available from the NICE website

2. This new area of work to support local government is in addition to NICE's ongoing programme producing public health guidance. The first briefings were published in summer 2012, covering tobacco, physical activity and workplace health. Further briefings covered alcohol, health inequalities and the public health outcomes framework.

3. Research published in 2011, (Owen, L., Morgan, A., Fischer, A., Ellis, S., Hoy, A., Kelly, M.P. (2011) The cost effectiveness of public health interventions, Journal of Public Health; doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdr075), showed that 85% of public health interventions were cost-effective at a threshold of £20,000 per quality-adjusted life year - this is considerably less than the extra cost per unit of health gained that the NHS often pays for clinical interventions, such as drug treatments.

About NICE

4. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance and standards on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health

5. NICE produces guidance in three areas of health:

  • public health - guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention of ill health for those working in the NHS, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector
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