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Saving the NHS by Beginning to Save Ourselves

Friday 8 January 2016

2016 is set to be the year of health – healthy bodies, healthy minds, and a healthy NHS that will feel relieved of some of its recent pressures.

This January, as with every other January in recent history, many of us will have resolved to be a fitter, healthier version of ourselves; to join the gym, to give up chocolate, to eat more vegetables. The importance of these health resolutions is greater than ever – if we start taking better care of ourselves, we just might be able to help support the NHS’ Five Year Forward View and see our country’s health services enter a sustainable future.

The focus for the NHS this year will continue to be on prevention rather than treatment, beginning this month with the longstanding issues of obesity and diabetes. The UK currently has one of the highest rates of obesity in Western Europe, and it’s easy to see why – much of the food and drink we consume is laced with hidden additives and preservatives, and most of us have little awareness of their effects.

Consequently, less than a week into the year, we are already being provided warnings and wellbeing initiatives to combat the unhealthy lifestyle decisions we seem to be unconsciously making.

Saving Ourselves

The Local Government Association (LGA), for example, has suggested that the makers of alcoholic drinks should display the calorie count on their products as many people are unaware of the nutritional value of their alcoholic indulgences – alcohol provides ‘empty calories’ which mean they actually have no nutritional value at all. By consuming these drinks, the amount of fat the body burns for energy is greatly reduced.

Overall, alcohol misuse costs the NHS about £3.5bn a year.

The LGA have therefore suggested that the effects of hidden calories in alcohol are a huge contributing factor to the country’s current obesity crisis. LGA’s Izzi Seccombe has commented that ‘prevention is the only way we are going to tackle the obesity crisis, which is costing the NHS more than £5bn every year.’

Alongside the effects of alcohol, it’s common knowledge that a huge number of other lifestyle choices are draining the resources of the NHS: physical inactivity, smoking and poor diet to name just a few. These are all choices that we make. Being given the information we need to make smart, healthy decisions does not, of course, mean that we will do so, but then the onus is on us as users of the NHS to support the organisation we rely so heavily on.

In a further attempt to help prevent lifestyle-based illnesses, Public Health England has also recently developed an app to help us check the sugar content of food and drinks: the ‘sugar smart app’. The app works by scanning the barcode of a food or drink item and revealing the amount of sugar in cubes or grams. The ultimate goal is to reduce the cases of obesity and type two diabetes by encouraging us to confront exactly what we are putting into our bodies – it may not be pleasant to see but it’s likely to be effective.

Saving the NHS

Alongside each of us making healthy lifestyle decisions to play our part in saving the NHS, here at Connexica we are led to question how can BI and data analysis software help its plight to prevent rather than treat illness?

Business Intelligence software such as CXAIR provides quick and easy access to and insight into data – patients can not only be diagnosed and treated more quickly, but it will also be possible to prevent possible illnesses and admissions to hospitals by providing access to a patient’s history. The number of ‘bed days lost,’ as discussed in our most recent article about the winter pressures facing the NHS, will be reduced as potential admissions to hospital will have been prevented.

This week has ended with the educated speculation that rising levels of obesity and unhealthy weights could be linked to 670,000 extra cases of cancer in the next twenty years, with experts predicting that almost three in four adults could be overweight or obese by 2035 – the scale of the health issues that would occur alongside this rise in obesity is frightening. Hopefully it will convince us to take action while prevention is still possible.

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