Health promotion and ill-health prevention are key government priorities, but it is widely recognised that most general practices could be more proactive in engaging with the wider public health agenda. As the first point of NHS contact for most patients, general practice is in a unique position to promote the health and well-being of practice populations.

Related document: A pro-active promotion. Health promotion and ill-health prevention

What did we explore?

To inform its work, the Inquiry panel commissioned a research project to examine the appropriate contribution of general practice to health promotion and ill-health prevention. A pro-active approach. Health promotion and ill-health prevention assesses what good-quality of care in this area might look like and how it might be measured. The paper's authors are Stephen Peckham, Reader in Health Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Tammy Boyce, former Research Fellow (public health), The King's Fund; and Alison Hann, Tutor, Swansea University.

What have we learnt about health promotion?

In March 2010 the Inquiry held a seminar on health promotion and ill-health prevention with participants including GPs, practice nurses, NHS executives, health academics and patient representatives.

Key issues raised in discussion include:

  • How can GPs engage with the wider social determinants of health?
  • How should general practice, community nurses, health visitors and pharmacists best be deployed for effective health promotion?
  • What balance should there be between universal and targeted health promotion in general practice?

What's your view?

During the inquiry, we asked for your opinions on this care dimension. You can read the comments submitted below.

Related content


James Morris

AERC Alcohol Academy
Comment date
26 August 2010
A very valuable report emphasising the opportunities for prevention over treatment. However I would really have like to have seen a chapter dedicated to hihglighting the importance alcohol prevention, integrated of course within the wider Public Health agenda. Primary Care is the key setting for delivering highly cost effective brief interventions to reduce early stage/harardous drinking. Yet as the report acknowledges, many Practices don't have the skills or support to delvier these. The alcohol DES has not been suficiently effective and so further resources and structures to support better delivery of alcohol prevention in Primary Care is needed. Such reports are a key mechanism for achieving this.

Jonathan Upton

The Campaign Company
Comment date
31 August 2010
Excellent stuff.Two points. I've never really understood the 'giving lifestyle advice may be detrimental to the GP-patient relationship'. We wouldn't find it acceptable if a lawyer was reluctant to discourage a client from behaving illegally in order to keep the relationship intact! Is it that different?
Much of the discussion about the role of GPs and ill health prevention is seen through the prism of giving 'information'. And giving people more information about NHS provision etc is also an important aspect of the White Paper.. Of course it is desirable to give people data that will allow some of them to exercise their choice more effectively. However it is not enough to supply information indiscriminately and without context as people will utilise the information in different ways and in some cases not at all. As we know emotional reactions will be more important than the rational processing of information when it comes to influencing decisions and making choices.The report is right to highlight the need for training and for the development of skills if such interventions are to be effective.

Angus Tallini

Comment date
04 September 2010
Surely by the time you wait for people to come through their GP's door, it is a little late for much health promotion. It is patronising to believe that people just need more information- that they aren't already aware of how much alcohol they should drink, how they shouldn't smoke, and how they need to do more exercise. The problem is their position in the cycle of change which is often locked by societal factors- cost and time of eating healthily and exercising, stress and emotional distress self-treated with alcohol/smoking/excessive food.
I don't disagree that GPs should expand their health promotion role, but there needs to be wider support from employers, the media, local and central government in order to make a positive impact on how we live.

J forsyth

Community Nursery Nurse,
Comment date
16 September 2010
Prevention is better than cure. But we are still in a society where the later is still evident. The GP is a secondary source for information in most cases as the patient sees them because they have something wrong with them not because they are well and doing.
To prevent you need first hand source.
To prevent you need a better choice.
To prevent you have to take cost factor into play.
To prevent it has to be done at the basic level of society, culture, and so on.

pre baby checks -fit to be pregnant -picks up any issues before pregnancy -high blood pressure -which in pregnancy could be risk to mum and babe. Info given on looking after self in pregnancy, expectations and so on.
once pregnant -pre natal checks -info given on post birth -this gives them time to look, do , find out more -at birth they are not fit to take on board.
its just an example but can be done with school children -before things happen.