Greater support for local government in new public health role

Published on Wednesday, 07 December 2011 12:50
Posted by Scott Buckler

NICE is to help local government make the most of limited resources to commission the best possible public health services, by developing a series of value-for-money briefings

The announcement comes as latest research highlights the value of public health action and shows that the majority of public health interventions recommended by NICE are highly cost effective.

The findings are of particular importance for local authorities as they prepare to take over the role of commissioning public health services from Primary Care Trusts from April 2013.

NICE public health briefings will make it easier for Directors of Public Health, elected members and senior officers in local authorities to find out which public health actions are most effective whilst also providing the best value for money.

The briefings will raise awareness and provide information about the existing evidence-based recommendations and evidence reviews from NICE that local government can call upon when commissioning public health services.

They will focus on a broad range of topics covering some of the major issues facing today's society, such as alcohol misuse, smoking, physical activity and obesity.

NICE is already well placed to advise local government on public health having produced 36 different pieces of public health guidance since 2005.

But this latest study, in the Journal of Public Health, is the first to provide a comprehensive list of the cost-effectiveness of public health interventions.

The study looked at 21 pieces of NICE public health guidance published until June 2010.

Overall, 85 per cent of public health interventions from NICE were found to be cost-effective at a £20,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) threshold.

This ranged from those targeted at individuals using face-to-face interventions to those targeted at whole populations such as mass-media campaigns and legislative measures.

Interventions aimed at the general population tended to have a somewhat lower cost per QALY than those targeted at disadvantaged groups.

Although the vast majority of interventions were aimed at adults, interventions aimed at children and young people were also found to be cost-effective.

Interventions aimed at the population, such as mass-media campaigns to promote healthy eating and legislation to reduce young people's access to cigarettes, were found to be the cheapest in terms of cost per QALY.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE and joint author of the research, said: “Given the current economic climate it's more important than ever to make best use of limited resources.

“This research not only proves unequivocally that prevention is better than cure, but just how highly cost-effective the public health interventions recommended by NICE really are.

“With this clear indication of the value of public health action, and its potential to save resources whilst improving health, we look forward to extending our portfolio of public health products to provide more support to the local government sector.”

He added: “The new NICE ‘Local Government Public Health Briefings' documents will provide tailored practical advice for local councillors, Directors of Public Health and other local government staff which they can adapt to local circumstances to help them meet their new public health responsibilities.

“The resulting summaries will help raise awareness of those public health activities and approaches which are proven to be effective, and how they can not only improve the health of local people, but also often save money.”

NICE will be appointing a new committee to guide the development of the briefings, and welcomes applications to join the committee from community members, professionals and local councillors with an interest in health and wellbeing, local community leaders and voluntary groups.


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