Public health briefing aims to reduce diabetes, heart disease and cancer

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Helping local authorities to tackle obesity is the focus of a NICE local government public health briefing published today, in a bid to reduce diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers.

The briefing highlights the importance of addressing the issue of obesity and encourages physical activity and healthy eating for communities and local businesses in a case for action.

The publication is part of a series of NICE briefing documents that will aim to provide support to local government, helping councillors and local authority staff to tackle public health problems in the most effective way - including financially.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: "People being overweight or obese was estimated to cost the economy, including the NHS, £16bn in 2007. In general, the cost of taking action to prevent obesity will usually be small in comparison with the future health benefits and the long-term cost savings from reductions in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

"NICE public health guidance sets out what works best to keep communities healthy - actions which also often save money both in the short and long-term. This new Local Government Public Health Briefing on obesity summarises our main guidance recommendations in a format specifically tailored to support local government in its new public health role."

He added local authorities were in a good position to take action on important local issues such as commissioning weight management services and improving the environment in which people live to help them manage their weight.

Carolyn Downs, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said: "In the current financial climate it's absolutely vital that we make best use of limited public funds available, and research clearly shows the value of public health action and its potential to save resources while improving health.

"This practical advice will help support colleagues in local government use our new public health responsibilities to take action on the growing obesity crisis and help millions of people live longer and healthier lives."

Examples of effective recommendations highlighted in the new briefing include; health overview and scrutiny committees to assess local action; raising awareness of welfare benefits that supplement family food budgets; controlling food outlets near schools; and working with local clinical commissioning groups to ensure GP awareness of prevention and treatment.

The briefings have been developed with input from the independent Local Government Reference Group, based on recommendations from existing NICE public health and clinical guidance.

The group comprises councillors, local government officers, and others with an interest in community health and wellbeing.

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