A hard-hitting National Consumer Council (NCC) report, published earlier this week, has said that if government health campaigns utilised the latest marketing techniques then the state of the nation’s health would “dramatically improve”. However, the Food Standards Agency told just-food, although the government is moving towards a more community-based vision to promote health it claims to have already succeeded in raising awareness of health issues.

The NCC report, titled “It’s our health”, suggests that despite numerous public health initiatives government bodies are failing to persuade people to adopt healthier lifestyles. This failure, the NCC said, costs GBP187bn (US$340.5bn) each year.

NCC Chief Executive Ed Mayo said: “The NHS has never invested in a marketing approach to public health, and yet evidence from countries such as Canada and Australia is that it works well. We estimate that a 5% increase in healthy behaviour could save the NHS and care services close to GBP1bn, which is equivalent to the projected NHS deficit.”
Report author and Director of the NCC National Social Marketing Centre, Dr Jeff French, said: “The key to social marketing is finding out why people behave as they do, rather than telling them to look after themselves.

“It’s our health is a blue print for how social marketing can dramatically improve the impact of government health campaigns. It also sets clear recommendations for building positive relationships between the government, the private sector and charities to deliver improvements,” Dr French concluded.

Responding to the criticisms included in the report, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: “We asked NCC to produce this report because we recognise that the era of one size fits all campaigning is over and that we need to give people support in changing their behaviour.”

While recognising that the UK Government must change its attitude towards promoting health, Flint emphasised the successes and achievements of various public health campaigns.

“Our public health campaigns have been successful in raising awareness of how people can improve their health by stopping smoking, eating more fruit and vegetables and reducing salt in their diet.

“But we are determined to continue improving the nation’s health and to tackle health inequalities. That’s why we are moving towards a more community-based health service which will focus on prevention as well as treatment,” Flint concluded.