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11-03-2013 | Article

Poor health and less spending – an uneasy combination

As doctors we have a significant role to play in our patients' health and general wellbeing. And, in primary care, we put great emphasis on prevention and screening programmes, in addition to reacting to acute illness and providing long-term care. But despite our best efforts, some recent facts and figures on the state of UK health have made for sobering reading.

A Univadis Medical News article (click here) states: "A report in The Lancet shows UK health outcomes compare poorly with those in the other original 14 European Union countries, Norway, the USA, Canada and Australia." It was a statement that surprised and took me aback.

However, the causes of this disparity were less unexpected with "the significant impact of tobacco use, high blood pressure, high body mass index, diet and physical inactivity on chronic disability" cited. So what can be done?

There have been plenty of initiatives and political backing to combat such adversaries as cardiovascular disease. However, there is far more to be done and much of it may be outside pure medical control.

Additional forms of political action could be instigated but I believe to really improve our lifestyle, the impetus has to come from the public themselves. Yes, we can advise our patients and some will listen - but will it spur them into action? Promoting a healthy lifestyle is a worthwhile public health initiative but the recipients - the general population - have got to act on it.

We also need to look to what those other, more successful, countries are doing and see where we are going wrong. I am sure there are no easy answers out there but that should not put us off.

Meanwhile, we as a medical profession, and primary care in particular, should be targeting high-risk patients and seeing what we can do to try to optimise their health. The bad news is that significant new funding is not going to be available. In fact, according to another Univadis Medical News article (click here), spending on primary care is being hit by the quest for efficiency savings. So it looks as though we are increasingly being asked to do more for less; is this something we can achieve?

Best wishes,


Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief Univadis

By Dr Harry Brown