Public Health and Prevention

Where you can make a positive impact towards net zero

AHPs and their teams should improve public health and reduce carbon impact by:

  • Carrying out, and measuring the impact of this where possible
  • Equipping individuals to make informed choices and manage their own health.
  • Making Every Contact Count.

AHPs in leadership or management roles should:

  • Look at and respond to local population needs and the wider factors affecting health and people’s ability to make healthy life choices.
  • Identify the areas where AHPs can make the greatest impact, recognising that this will vary for different professions. Embedding Public Health into Clinical Servicesis a useful toolkit to support needs-based service redesign to improve health and wellbeing alongside sustainability.
  • Contribute to ‘Healthy Places’ (integrated services for local populations), including by utilising trust Green Plans.

The link between sustainability and public health

As described in Delivering a Net Zero NHS, there is a carbon footprint attached to healthcare activity across all settings from community services to secondary care. This means there is a strong link between our ambitions to improve public health and reduce our carbon impact, because less carbon intensive healthcare is based on reducing the need to access healthcare services. We can achieve this by supporting individuals and communities to live healthier and happier lives.

Example – Falls prevention

When an older person falls, it can have devastating consequences. Multiplied across the population, it is a major public health issue. Falls are the most common cause of death from injury in the over 65s and cost the NHS over £2 billion a year and over four million bed days. At an individual level, falls are the number one precipitating factor for a person losing independence and going into long term care. A first fall can set in motion a downward spiral of fear of falling which, in turn, can lead to more inactivity, loss of strength and a greater risk of further falls. But while the problem is complex, it is not inevitable. Falls are not a “normal” part of ageing and many can be prevented. AHPs are an integral part of falls prevention because of their roles in strength and balance, mobility, environmental adaptations, nutrition, vision, and footwear. By preventing falls, AHPs are improving public health and sustainability of health care, through reducing the need to access carbon intensive healthcare services.

Reaching our country’s ambitions under the Paris Climate Change Agreement could see more than 5,700 lives saved every year from improved air quality, 38,000 lives saved every year from a more physically active population and over 100,000 lives saved every year from healthier diets.

AHPs recognise the importance of prevention and its impact on sustainability. When we asked how AHPs can have the most impact on environmental sustainability, two of the top three answers were changing people’s behaviours and public health/prevention.

AHPs’ role in public health

Over the past six years, AHPs have been cited as vanguards of the wider public health workforce. In 2019, the AHP Federation and Public Health England published an impact report of the 2015-18 AHP public health strategy. The vision was for AHPs to be recognised as an integral part of the public health workforce, with responsibility for designing and delivering improvements to health and wellbeing and reducing health inequalities. This includes how Higher Education Institutions have embedded public health into curricula, an increased focus on measuring the impact of AHP public health interventions and how the profile of AHPs’ contribution to public health has increased, along with stronger strategic connections between AHPs and national public health programmes.

We recognise this has just been the start of a radical transformation to embed prevention into all care pathways and AHP services. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of this and the alignment to Delivering a Net Zero NHS and the NHS Long Term Plan adds further impetus.

The next stage of our journey is being undertaken as a collaboration across the UK. The UK Allied Health Professions Public Health Strategic Framework published in 2019 provides the roadmap to embed public health into every AHP role and to develop public health leadership skills in AHP professions.

Our shared vision is that public health will be a core element of all AHP roles and the impact of AHPs on the population’s health, reducing health inequalities and delivering sustainable healthcare will be increasingly recognised.

Whatever your role, by working together we can be a force for change and contribute to a culture of health and sustainability in our society.