NICE has created three new quality standards to help healthcare professionals tackle major public health problems such as smoking, alcohol use, and physical inactivity.
According to NICE, these are some of the largest causes of health problems and death in the UK. For example, it is estimated that nearly 80,000 deaths were directly related to smoking in 2013, while the number of hospital admissions per day for smoking-related diseases rose from 3044 to approximately 4400 in 2013. It is also thought that 37,000 deaths could be prevented each year if the public were more active, and figures suggest that over one million people were admitted to hospital in 2012/13 because of alcohol.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: 'In England smoking, excessive drinking and physical inactivity cause too many deaths and too much disease. They cost taxpayers, through the NHS, over £7 billion every year.'
The quality standard on alcohol contains a variety of recommendations to combat alcohol abuse, such as public health teams using data on alcohol-related crime to identify areas where stricter licensing objectives are required, alcohol education included in school and college curriculums, and using public health teams to commission trading standards on the sale of alcohol to those who are under-age.
To reduce the impact of smoking, NICE recommends introducing contracts that prohibit healthcare workers from smoking during working hours, banning smoking from any property where healthcare is provided. The standard also suggests that PHE should work with local authorities to provide tobacco education programmes to patients.
The quality standard on recommends that NHS organisations set up programmes to support employees to be more physically active, and ensuring that adult patients are advised about the long-term damage a lack of physical activity can have on health. Additionally, under the National Child Measurement Programme, parents and carers should be advised on how to improve their child's health through physical health.
A recent survey found that 80% of children did not meet the minimum levels for physical activity. The quality standard has stated that the Healthy Child Programme's two-year review provides an opportunity for healthcare workers to promote activity from an early age.
NICE has also stated that it is particularly important to promote good health to children. As approximately 65% of people who have smoked started before they were 18, the standard on smoking recommends that educational establishments should not allow smoking by staff on their grounds.
Professor Leng added: 'There are areas where we can make improvements. We can help the NHS and local authorities to take action in their local area and educate younger people so that healthy choices become a life-long habit. These new quality standards include interventions to help people of all ages so we can continue to improve the health of the nation.'