Call for more prevention funding

10 Jul 19

Government must look to shift health spending more towards prevention, health leaders have urged.

Prevention spending can improve life expectancy rates in less affluent regions and have a positive impact on productivity, according to Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England.

Speaking at CIPFA’s annual conference, Public Finance Live, today, Selbie noted that there is a 19-year difference in life expectancy between Bradford and Guildford, and added that investing in preventative health services was the way to reduce this disparity.

He said that even “marginal shifts” in prevention spending would make a big difference. Selbie noted that 4.7% of health spending goes towards prevention and called for this figure to be increased.

“The dream is that we develop a prudential code for investing in prevention,” he told delegates in Birmingham. “The most important investment to make is to the early years of life.”

Also speaking at the session was Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, who highlighted both moral and economic cases for increasing prevention spending.

She said: “Wide and persistent gaps in child development open up early along socio-economic lines, with significant consequences for future and intergenerational outcomes.

“Early intervention can play a part in giving these children and families the support they need to reach their full potential.”

Casebourne also pointed to research that suggests that failing to provide early intervention services in areas like health and education costs England and Wales £17bn a year.

“Leaving issues in childhood unresolved has pervasive negative consequences for children’s outcomes later in life, leading to extra costs to the public purse,” she said.

A recent joint report from CIPFA and PHE called for a “system-wide rethink” on public health investment.

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