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Prevention is better than cure

Our vision to help you live well for longer

This document sets out a vision for putting prevention at the heart of our nation's health. Our mission is to improve healthy life expectancy so that, by 2035, we are enjoying at least five extra years of healthy, independent life, whilst closing the gap between the richest and poorest.

Prevention is about helping people stay healthy, happy and independent for as long as possible. This means reducing the chances of problems from arising in the first place and, when they do, supporting people to manage them as effectively as possible. Prevention is as important at seventy years old as it is at age seven.

Chapter one sets out why prevention matters, and the case for change. Our health is our most important asset, we must protect and nourish it. Whilst we have made great progress in helping people live longer lives, too many of these extra years are spent in poor health. We are now living with more complex illnesses for longer, and significant health inequalities still exist. Yet this is not inevitable. Much of this ill health could be prevented.

Chapter two describes the Government's vision for preventing problems from arising in the first place. This covers everyday decisions people have personal responsibility for, for example around what we eat and drink, how active we are and how much we sleep, as well as wider actions to improve our mental health. But these decisions are not made in isolation; they are also shaped by our early experiences, the environment around us and by the services we receive. The NHS and local authorities need to put prevention at the heart of everything they do: tackling the root causes of poor health, not just treating the symptoms, and providing targeted services for those most at risk. Action is needed to empower people to make healthier choices, to harness modern technology, and to address the broader conditions that lead to health and social care needs in the first place.

Chapter three sets out the prevention vision for those already living with a health or social care need, and how they can live well for longer. The health and social care system has an important role to play in terms of: (i) picking up problems earlier; (ii) stopping them from getting worse by providing the right care in the community, and putting more people in control of their health; and (iii) supporting the whole person - across mental and physical health - not just treating symptoms. Living well in the community also involves more than health and social care services. Where we live and work, and the support we get from those around us, makes a big difference to our ability to live well.

When it comes to prevention, we all have a role to play: individuals, families, communities, employers, charities, the NHS, social care, and local and national government. Only by working together can we make this vision a reality.