Our first GP blog, Making Healthy Choices, is provided by Dr Sunil Gupta, Clinical Chair of the NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG
Not all health problems can be prevented. But for those that can, we need to give people the knowledge, skills and confidence – as well as the opportunities – to live healthier lifestyles, and make healthy choices as easy as possible.
Living well starts with individuals and families. Prevention is for everyone – at every stage of life decisions we take every day can help us improve our health. These could be small choices, such as choosing a low sugar drink or minimising screen time before bed, to the broader decisions we take: where we live or where we work.
Our lifestyle choices
There are also the larger healthy lifestyle choices that reduce our chances of becoming unwell. These include: not smoking, eating a good diet, being physically active, reducing our alcohol intake, not taking illegal drugs, and taking care of our mental health. These decisions can impact on our health, and also on the health of others; especially our children. This ranges from the meals we prepare for our families, the exercise we encourage children to take, ensuring that they receive the vaccinations they need, and creating the right home environment to nurture them and strengthen their resilience.
We are also influenced by the world around us: by our friends and family, the articles we read, the adverts we see, the food available in our shops, where we live and by our workplaces. Government recognises these factors relate to other aspects of our lives, and has therefore given local authorities the lead responsibility for improving health locally.
Prevention is better than cure
Prevention is better than cure of course, our choices go beyond physical health. Small improvements in wellbeing can help reduce mental health problems. Evidence suggests that there are a few simple things we can do to improve our personal wellbeing. These are known as The Five Ways to Wellbeing. These improvements in mental health can help with physical health, and vice versa.
Prevention is not solely the job of public health experts, social workers and community nurses – everyone working in the health and social care system has a role to play. Over the course of our lives, our first and most frequent interactions with health and social care services are likely to be with our GP, school nurse, dentist, local pharmacist, social worker, health visitor or midwife. These professionals are in a unique position to influence and guide our lifestyle choices, and to spot when we might need help.
This goes beyond conversations about people’s lifestyles. After all, our health is shaped by the environment in which we live, as well as the decisions we make. So, in partnership with local authorities and employers, we need to be improving all aspects of our lives, across transport, housing, education, employment and the physical environment. We all have a role to play in helping to create a healthier, happier country.
Dr Sunil Gupta, Clinical Chair of NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG