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Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Experts urge more health promotion
Current policies include free fruit for English schools
Experts have urged the government to spend more money on health promotion, saying three out of four cancers could be prevented if people had healthier lifestyles.

A report by the charity Macmillan Cancer Relief suggests health spending in the UK is still skewed too much in favour of treatment.

It says there is increasing evidence to support devoting a much larger proportion of the health budget to education and promotion.


At least three quarters of cancers could be avoided by the adoption of healthier lifestyles

Macmillan Cancer Relief report
It has called for more action and money to encourage people to give up smoking, improve their diets and take more exercise.

The report criticises the government's health policies, saying the NHS continues to be funded, delivered and used primarily as a national sickness service.

Extra spending

It says spending on prevention, health education and the promotion of healthier lifestyles is dwarfed by the billions spent on the treatment of patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

The report adds that cancer is rarely inevitable and is almost always triggered by lifestyle and environmental factors.

Recent studies have suggested that only a small percentage of cancers are genetic.

The report states: "At least three quarters of cancers could be avoided by the adoption of healthier lifestyles.

"Smoking and poor diet - arguably the two biggest risk factors - are believed to each account for one-third of all cancers.

"Sun exposure, excessive alcohol consumption and certain infections are also considered major risk factors for some cancers."

'Huge imbalance'

The report calls for a "culture shift" in government and medical thinking on health promotion.

"Removing the barriers to healthier lifestyles requires an effective and imaginative collaboration among all the public bodies and charitable organisations concerned with healthcare and health promotion.

"It requires not only political will and investment by the government and better targeting of health promotion but also a major culture shift within the health profession."

Dame Gill Oliver, director of service development at Macmillan Cancer Relief, said more money would have to be spent on education and promotion in the years ahead.

"The better we understand the scale and costs of chronic illness compared to prevention and screening, the harder it will be to justify the huge imbalance of government resources that have been invested in treatment over the past two decades."

More than one million people in the UK are currently living with cancer, and four in 10 will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime.

The government published a White Paper in 1999 outlining plans to cut the number of deaths from diseases like cancer and heart disease within 10 years.

Our Healthier Nation pledged to reduce cancer deaths by one fifth by 2010 by improving services and improving lifestyles.

This includes plans to ban tobacco advertising and giving free fruit to children in schools in England.

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23 May 02 | Health
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