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New NICE support for local government on tackling alcohol and health inequalities
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence today (Wednesday 31 October) publishes further support for local authorities as part of its new suite of Local Government Public Health Briefings.

alcohol  |  Health Inequalities  |  NICE  |  

The three new briefings cover tackling the harm caused by alcohol; health inequalities and population health; and how NICE guidance can help local authorities meet the objectives set out in the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) for England. The PHOF sets out the Department of Health’s overarching vision for public health and outcomes to be achieved, and details indicators to help show how well health is being improved and protected. More than 40 of the 60 PHOF indicators can be supported by NICE guidance.

Local government is preparing to take on a wider remit for public health in communities from April 2013. To provide support, NICE has started producing specially tailored briefings to help councillors and local authority staff find out which public health actions are most effective in improving the health of people in their area, while also providing the best value for money. Based on recommendations from existing NICE public health and clinical guidance, the briefings have been developed with input from the independent Local Government Reference Group (LGRG). The LGRG comprises councillors, local government officers, and others with an interest in community health and wellbeing.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE said:“We’re pleased to publish the second batch of Local Government Public Health Briefings which summarise our main guidance recommendations relating to the Public Health Outcomes Framework, as well as those related to tackling the harm caused by alcohol and health inequalities. This tailored information highlights why each topic is an important issue to tackle and how local communities will benefit as a result.

“For example, alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost the NHS in England around £3.5 billion per year. Reducing alcohol-related harm, by encouraging a more sensible drinking culture, will improve health by reducing the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke), cancer and liver disease. It will also reduce the number of low birthweight babies, and reduce the levels of violent crimes (including sexual violence) and domestic abuse. Tackling this issue will help local authorities meet their statutory duty to achieve the indicators outlined in the Public Health Outcomes Framework. This type of information is given in the briefings along with examples of good practice and quick facts and figures to make a case for action.

“These briefings to support local government are based on NICE public health guidance which sets out what works best to keep communities healthy – actions which also often save money both in the short and long-term. So we hope that the practical advice in the briefings will help local government to make best use of limited funds, with the potential to save resources while improving the health of local people.”

Examples of effective recommendations highlighted in the new briefings include: 

  • Alcohol: 
      - adopting a two-pronged approach with a combination of interventions aimed at the whole population and individuals;  
        - ensuring children and young people are protected from alcohol advertising as much as possible;  
        - using local health, crime and related trauma data to map the extent of alcohol-related problems locally before developing or reviewing a licensing policy to ensure an area offers a wide range of leisure and cultural-based activities, rather than just providing alcohol-related entertainment
  • Health Inequalities:
      - gathering information to inform the joint strategic needs assessment and to help develop the health and wellbeing strategy, to help allocate resources effectively to reduce variation in service access and uptake;    
       - identifying those at risk and focusing interventions according to need;
      - assessing the potential health impact of a proposal and making recommendations for improving it, for example across transport, planning, housing, education, regeneration and health improvement; focus on tackling behaviours that increase the risk of ill health and premature death – and are generally more prevalent among people from lower socioeconomic groups – such as alcohol misuse, lack of physical activity and unintentional injuries.

Public Health Outcomes Framework indicators supported by NICE guidance include: 

  • Utilisation of green space for exercise/health reasons (increasing levels of physical activity in the local population);   
  • Killed or seriously injured casualties on England’s roads (accidental injury prevention; public health services for children and young people aged 5–19);
  • Air pollution (local initiatives that reduce public health impacts of environmental risks; increasing levels of physical activity in the local population).

Local Government Public Health Briefings previously prepared by NICE include physical activity and tackling tobacco use. All of the Briefings are available at