National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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Helping people avoid early death – NICE publishes new support for local government on tackling the causes of poor health

Helping local authorities to tackle the direct causes of early death is the focus of a new briefing from NICE.

Early death means dying before the age of 75.  One in every three people who dies in England is aged under 75 – two-thirds of these deaths are avoidable. Many of the direct causes of death, such as heart disease and cancer, follow long periods of bad health which is often caused by lifestyle factors.

NICE’s briefing focuses on the actions that local authorities can take to reduce early death; to address lifestyle issues that lead to poor health; to improve access to services; and to prevent unintentional injuries.

Underlying factors, such as bad housing and poor working conditions, can lead to illness and early death. For example, children who live in a deprived area are at greater risk of being injured in an accident - a leading cause of death in children and young people. As well as affecting a person’s physical and mental wellbeing, these wider social factors can influence their lifestyle choices – such as smoking or drinking alcohol – which cause early death.  People on low incomes are twice as likely to smoke and 3–5 times more likely to die from conditions caused by alcohol misuse such as chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

This briefing highlights the opportunity for local authorities to connect the work they have been doing for years on the wider factors behind poor health, to their more recent remit for supporting healthier lifestyles for individuals and communities.

Drawing on a wealth of NICE public health guidance recommendations, from smoking cessation, to physical activity, to detecting chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, the briefing supports local government in making changes needed to improve the health of local people, and saving lives.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive at NICE said: “Taking early action to tackle issues such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity could save about 103,000 people from dying early each year in England.  This new briefing pulls together recommendations from a wide range of NICE guidance to help local government use effective practical ways to address the direct causes of illness and early death. 

“For example advice on health eating highlights using supplier opportunities to influence healthy lifestyle choices, such as ensuring that catering contracts encourage a healthy balanced diet. Local government can also use existing powers to control the number of take-away and other food outlets in a given area.  On smoking, there’s advice on encouraging employers to publicise stop-smoking services and think about commissioning them for their workplace. Running health promotion campaigns on infectious diseases and vaccinations is another way to raise awareness in local populations on protecting health.”

Examples of effective actions highlighted in the new briefing include:

  • Help prevent, detect and manage infectious and chronic clinical conditions that can lead to premature mortality, using, for example, NHS Health Check and routine and opportunistic screening
  • Ensure leisure and other services are affordable, culturally acceptable and accessible to all, including women who wish to breastfeed
  • Introduce integrated population-wide programmes that address local health inequalities and improve access for those who do not routinely use services
  • Create, protect and manage safe spaces for physical activity and plan local facilities and services to ensure they are accessible on foot or by bicycle. This includes reviewing local bye laws that may discourage physical activity and using pricing and educational initiatives.

For more information call Dr Tonya Gillis at the NICE press office on 0300 323 0142 or out of hours on 07775 583 813.

Notes to Editors 

About the new Local Government Briefing

1. The new briefing, ‘Tackling the causes of premature mortality (early death)’, is published on 20 February 2015, and is available at:

2. This new publication is part of a suite of briefing documents which NICE is producing to provide support to local government. This new area of work aims to help councillors and local authority staff find out which public health actions are most effective in improving the health of people in their area, while also providing the best value for money. Based on recommendations from existing NICE public health and clinical guidance, the briefings have been developed with input from the independent Local Government Reference Group. The group comprises councillors, local government officers, and others with an interest in community health and wellbeing. The new briefings are in addition to NICE’s ongoing programme producing public health guidance. Topics covered include tobacco, physical activity and workplace health, alcohol, health inequalities and behaviour change.

About NICE

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent body responsible for driving improvement and excellence in the health and social care system. We develop guidance, standards and information on high-quality health and social care. We also advise on ways to promote healthy living and prevent ill health.

Our aim is to help practitioners deliver the best possible care and give people the most effective treatments, which are based on the most up-to-date evidence and provide value for money, in order to reduce inequalities and variation.

Our products and resources are produced for the NHS, local authorities, care providers, charities, and anyone who has a responsibility for commissioning or providing healthcare, public health or social care services.

To find out more about what we do, visit our and follow us on Twitter: @NICEComms.


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