A quarter of a million people across the UK could die needlessly over the coming nine years from preventable conditions, a new report suggests.
More must be done to address the nation's "shocking" rate of premature death, experts said after the reserach found that without significant national action 250,000 people will die from preventable conditions by 2025.
Researchers, commissioned by The Richmond Group of charities, examined future trends for the most common long-term health conditions in the UK and explored what could happen if steps were taken to reduce death and disability caused by these illnesses.
The paper concludes that for women, the UK is on track to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) aim of a 25% reduction in early deaths from common long-term conditions between 2010 and 2025. But the nation falls short of reaching this target for men.
The authors say that the UK is a developed, wealthy nation with substantial public health system and should "do much better".
They set out a series of potential national policy interventions that could help significantly reduce both deaths and disability caused by the most common long-term health conditions including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, arthritis and dementia.
By implementing these interventions - which focus on preventing smoking, harmful alcohol consumption, poor diet and addressing physical inactivity - many lives could be saved or improved over a 10-year period, the authors said.
These interventions include: laws to raise the price of high strength cheap alcohol, further restriction of alcohol marketing, the reformulation of packaged food, including portion size control and further restriction of unhealthy food marketing.
Other suggestions to reduce physical inactivity include: redesigning urban environments to prioritise walking and cycling and a behaviour change service for those who are physically inactive.
If interventions like these were implemented then a quarter of a million lives could be saved over the next 10 years, the Richmond Group said.
- 26,000 fewer deaths if food was reformulated to reduce salt, sugar and portion size.
- An increase in tobacco tax could result in 2,450 fewer deaths.
- Restrictions on alcohol marketing could result in 78,000 fewer deaths over 10 years.
Lead author of the report, Dr Peter Scarborough, said: "In recent years we have seen great improvements in cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic disease rates thanks both to improvements in treatment and healthier lifestyle choices such as fewer people smoking. However, we have also seen worrying increases in obesity levels and type 2 diabetes, and there is much more that we could achieve to improve population diets and physical activity levels."
Commenting on the report, Paula Reid, policy manager at the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: "This report shines a much needed light on the desperate need for an overhaul in the way many common and preventable health conditions are treated and managed, in order to address this shocking rate of premature death."
A joint statement from the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of over 30 leading national health charities, campaign groups, and Royal Medical Colleges, including Diabetes UK, said: "We live in an environment where everyday processed food and drink is packed full of added sugar, salt and saturated fats, which makes it extremely difficult for the public to make the right choices when it comes to diet and to eat healthy foods. This is why we need the Government to publish and implement an effective Childhood Obesity Strategy as soon as possible.
"This must include challenging targets, that are backed by regulation, for the food and drinks industry to make their products healthier by reducing the sugar, salt and saturated fat content, as well as restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy products.
"The launch of today's Living Longer, Living Well report from the Richmond Group shows that this is the right approach as it would dramatically improve people's lives and lead to fewer disabilities and early deaths."
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, added: "We call on the government to take the decisive actions recommended in this report so that the right support is in place to enable people to live well for longer."
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "What we see on the street, in our shops and in the media encourages us to consume too many calories which leads to weight gain.
"This is why our evidence review on how to help people cut down on sugar proposes controls on marketing, advertising and promotions of high sugar products and reducing the sugar in food and drink."
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