Physical activity advice in GP practices could save 1,000 lives a year

An intervention by GPs to promote physical activity in patients could save 1,000 lives a year and help the UK to meet international health targets, according to a coalition of leading health charities.

A ‘behaviour change advice service’ rolled out across general practice could save over 11,000 lives over the coming decade and reduce years lived with disability by almost 100,000 over that period, according to a report.

The Living longer, living well report, launched by the Richmond Group of Charities, sets out what they believe is required to meet the WHO’s health goal of reducing mortality by 25% by 2025.

The group consists of 12 leading health charities including Diabetes UK, Macmillan, Age UK, the British Lung Foundation and the British Heart Foundation.

Meeting the WHO’s targets – which the UK government has signed up to achieve – would give the equivalent of 1.12m people in the UK an extra year of healthy, disability-free life, the report says.

GP advice

But the Richmond Group has warned that these ‘unambitious’ targets will be missed if the UK continues ‘business as usual’.

It has recommended 12 interventions to improve health, including one for GP practices to offer ‘brief advice’ to help induce physical activity behaviour change among patients.

The recommendation forms one of the four key large scale interventions out of the 12 recommended in the report. Others include increasing tobacco tax, adding restrictions on alcohol marketing and food reformulation such as reducing salt and sugar and portion size.

These interventions could help ‘significantly reduce deaths and disability’ caused by long term disease over the next decade, according to modelling carried out as part of the report.

Promoting ‘physical activity behaviour change’ through GP practices could reduce deaths by 5,800 among men and 5,800 among women, it said, and reduce years lived with disability in men by 43,000 and in women by 55,000.

Reducing deaths

It said: ‘It is no longer good enough to add years to people’s lives – we also need to add life to their years.

‘We have a clear opportunity ahead to change thousands of lives for the better. Our research shows that all the modelled interventions would significantly decrease the impact of poor health on substantial numbers of people. We recognise that many interventions may need funding, as well as require concerted effort across government, public services, businesses and charities to put them in place.

‘It’s time for government to act decisively on all of the four key risk factors outlined – poor diet, harmful alcohol consumption, smoking and physical inactivity – and we are ready to work with government to extend and improve lives across the UK.’

Photo: iStock

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