Serious medical consequences of smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and sexually transmitted disease require decisive leadership

The Royal College of Physicians’ response to the consultation document ‘Choosing Health?’ says that the serious medical consequences of smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and sexually transmitted disease require decisive leadership and action by Government.

The College’s response, which includes for the first time comments from the RCP Patient and Carer Network, covers smoking, alcohol, obesity, sexual health and inequalities in health, looking in detail at short- and long-term objectives; policies necessary to stem the tide of illness and support preventive health; and the organisational facilities needed.

The College has identified several factors that the various health risks have in common with each other in terms of the challenges facing Government, industry, health professionals and society:

  • All disproportionately affect the vulnerable in society, the young, the deprived and the disadvantaged
  • All require more socially responsible approaches to the advertising, marketing and promotion of products, which, if used at all in the case of tobacco, or unwisely in the case of alcohol and diet, cause ill-health and premature death
  • Premature death and ill-health from the above causes are preventable, and could be significantly reduced by public education and health promotion to encourage healthy behaviours
  • All form a substantial cost to society, not just through the costs to the NHS, but also in terms of wider costs to society such as lost production, costs to social services, and reductions in quality of life
  • All have implications for the training and education of health professionals and their practice

The response identifies clear actions and measures that should be taken to address these challenges. RCP President Professor Carol Black said: “The evidence supporting the need for action is beyond dispute. These are major public health issues of our time. We look to Government to lead.”

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