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CMO urges focus on public health to prevent life-limiting diseases

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Nearly 70 per cent of people in England have two or more habits or medical risk factors linked to life-limiting diseases; these must be tackled jointly by health professionals, rather than addressed individually, chief medical officer (CMO) Professor Dame Sally Davies has urged.

In her first report since her appointment as CMO, Prof Davies also warned 'comprehensive action' is needed to address rising rates of liver disease, which is increasing in England while decreasing in Europe.

Between 2000 and 2009, deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the under 65s increased by 20 per cent while they fell by the same amount in most EU countries. All three major causes of liver disease - obesity, undiagnosed infection, and, increasingly, harmful drinking - are preventable.

Prof Davies concluded a third of adults have three or more risk factors such as raised cholesterol, diabetes or overweight.

Action on preventing, identifying and treating liver disease is a priority and must be included in local health and wellbeing strategies, she said. Other recommendations include improving access to diabetes care.

Prof Davies called on Public Health England to ensure the capacity to capture data on long-term health conditions is as strong as surveillance on the causes of early death.

Stakeholders in 'the new health system' must work closely together, to increase survival and reduce mortality from cancers such as lung and pancreatic cancer, she said.

However, outcomes such as this will be difficult to attain, the RCN has warned, highlighting NHS workforce statistics published days after Prof Davies published her report. These revealed the number of NHS nurses has been slashed by 7,000 since May 2010.

RCN general secretary and chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: 'These numbers should be especially concerning, coming so soon after the CMO highlighted the importance of spending time with patients to help them avoid damaging behaviour such as drinking and smoking, as well as the importance of specialist care for diseases like diabetes.

'If we want to tackle public health problems facing the country, we need to see more investment in nursing, not more cuts.'

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