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Rising demand has been a feature of the public sector landscape for the past few years. In this context, it can be hard to justify allocating limited resources for investment in preventative interventions. Prevention boils down to helping people stay healthy, happy and independent for as long as possible. Evidence suggests that these approaches, whether it’s helping people stop smoking or immunisation programmes, can produce better outcomes over time.
The devolution and health and social care integration agendas present opportunities for local bodies to work together on the shared goal of improving the health of their communities. This requires a spirit of collaboration, particularly whether there is a need to align budgets and agree resourcing priorities. Any interventions must be sustainable within the financial strategies of all organisations so they can continue to be supported over the long term.
Given this, it is important that preventative interventions are properly evaluated and measured. This not only helps ensure best value, but also builds an evidence base to increase the transparency of such investments. A standardised assessment methodology would allow organisations across the sector to compare strategies and share what works. This in turn would enable transparent, clear communication with citizens to increase engagement with public health initiatives and improve understanding of where and how the public pound is spent.
We at CIPFA have partnered with Public Health England to develop a framework to guide such evaluations and analysis. This framework takes a holistic view, using cost-benefit analysis to encourage emphasis on sustainability and long-term thinking. It also allows for place-based consideration of investments.
Although it will take time to change attitudes to preventative interventions, this framework aims to take a step in the right direction and start a cross-sector conversation. Making the case of preventative investment now will ensure a lasting impact on public health – and other outcomes – over the years to come.
This article first appeared in The MJ.