A new approach to preventable lifestyle illnesses

Did you know, according to many doctors, for humans, biological ageing, by itself, is not a major problem until your about 80. In other words, take preventable ‘lifestyle’ illnesses out of the equation and many of us would be fit and healthy right through to our 9th decade – preventable lifestyle illnesses are the major problem – not ageing.

In the UK, these ‘preventable’ illnesses are linked to diet, smoking and inactivity and cost the NHS £11 billion per year, according to Public Health England, with conditions like type 2 diabetes at near-epidemic levels.

Sir Muir Gray has held various senior positions within the NHS and is very highly regarded. According to him, ‘wellness rather than illness’ should become the focus of the UK national health strategy. In other words, ‘Instead of giving lifestyle advice to healthy people and tablets to the unwell, we should be giving “activity therapy” to the 15 million people who are swallowing pills every day.’

However, this is not a new idea. For example, UK Active has warned that neglecting ‘preventative’ strategies and choosing to focus on illness instead if wellness with eventually bankrupt the NHS.

So, if we agree that the old focus is not working and we should try this new approach, where do we start?

UK Active have recently called for a £1 billion regeneration scheme to transform leisure centres into ‘community wellness hubs’ combining GP drop-in centres with gyms, swimming pools, and libraries to encourage and facilitate individuals leading healthier lifestyles.

Of course this regeneration would take a huge investment in the creation of new resources such as new tennis court construction, swimming pool construction, increasing the availability of gyms, and the construction of school canopies, however, to avoid many preventable illnesses, this would be a small price to pay – both metaphorically and literally – compared to the billions spent every year on preventable illnesses