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Let's get serious about public health!

Are you ready and poised to help the NHS achieve its commitment to promote health and embed public health messages into your activities? Then read on…

It is widely recognised that preventing ill health is essential if we are to avoid bankrupting the NHS. Across all four nations the NHS has recognised that taking steps to prevent ill-health will reduce the burden on the NHS and as a consequence has set this as a core ambition in the Five Year Forward View (FYFV 2014). As experts in nutrition, we all know that diet and nutrition plays a significant role in the prevention of many of the long-term conditions that are costly to the NHS and blight the lives of ever increasing numbers of patients. But diet is not the only factor contributing to the increasing prevalence of long-term conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, respiratory disease and malnutrition. Some of us are already starting to talk to patients about other parts of their lifestyle that contribute to the development of ill-health such as physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption and loneliness. If we are interested in our patients and clients well-being should we not all be doing this in whatever small way we can?

Evidence illustrates that the public trust healthy lifestyle advice if it comes from Allied Health Professionals. So no matter whether you work in the acute sector, mental health or community sectors you can make a difference, making the most of every contact with our patients by having ‘healthy conversations’ about the lifestyle issues relevant to each patient. To do this effectively some of us may need to refresh our skills and update ourselves on the current public health priorities. To help with this, the BDA have developed a range of on-line learning resources and are setting up a network of ‘public health champions’.

The public health champions network is a new initiative with a core aim to have one champion in each NHS dietetic team/department. Their role will be to empower dietetic colleagues to start having healthy conversations where appropriate. With more and more NHS organisations making prevention a priority the public health champions will help dietetic teams demonstrate their extra value.

If you’re an NHS dietitian, dietetic manager, student dietitian or freelance dietitian and interested in finding out more about what you can do to promote good health and prevent ill- health, then do read these webpages.  And if you are tempted to become a public health champion, then take a look at the links on the left menu.