After climate change, health is probably the most significant environmental challenge humans face. We all need to change the way we live and how we address the mismatch between our increasing expectations with the limitations on resources and our human evolution. This shift aligns with the climate agenda but positioning the change needs careful consideration. Covid-19 should be used as the starting point. It will be a long-term endeavour which will encounter many economic, political, and social challenges but we shouldn‚’t shy away from it.
Many advocate NHS reform, but that is only part of the solution. Policy makers need to create an integrated framework, to direct a long-term evolution through realistic incremental change and co-ordinated actions, which focuses on:
1. The supply of health services
We cannot afford to continue to provide health services in the way we do now. We need to redefine and transform the role, positioning and organisation of all health services in a comprehensive and integrated way.
2. Changing public behaviours and expectations
We need everybody to aspire to owning and proactively enjoying their mental, physical, and social well-being and receive help when they are unable to do so. People can‚’t assume that somebody else will fix their health and that care services are an inevitable part of living longer with ill-health. These unrealistic expectations, and perceived promises, must change.
3. Reshaping the environment towards better health
Policymakers need to develop appropriate regulation, properly supported by independent scientific evidence, to better support public health. At present we are all manipulated by those with clear vested interests in exploiting or avoiding health guidance. This includes food manufacturers and retailers, technology companies, health, fitness and nutrition advisers, the media and a plethora of social-media influencers. This needs to be addressed to help reverse today‚’s unsustainable health trends.