Thanks to continuous innovations in healthcare, people are living much longer than previous generations. Unfortunately, for many people, this also means living longer with a long-term condition or persistent illness.
We know that health inequalities are present throughout each of Cheshire and Merseyside’s nine boroughs. Despite improvements in life expectancy, the region remains below the England average. Furthermore within Cheshire and Merseyside, as with the rest of England, there is a social gradient in health – the lower a person’s socioeconomic position, the worse his or her health.
To reduce these health inequalities within Cheshire and Merseyside, there is considerable work to be done. We must start by understanding that:
As a result, there is a rising burden on health and care services driven by our lifestyle choices, as well as deprivation and other social and economic influences.
Improving population health through prevention of illness is a key part of the work of the Partnership. Following the call for a radical upgrade in prevention and public health in the Five Year Forward View, it is recognised that preventing illness is one of the ways to ensure the NHS remains sustainable in the future.
The Partnership’s Prevention Board is chaired jointly by Eileen O’Meara, Director of Public Health in Halton and Jon Develing, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. The Board meets bi-monthly and has representation from across the NHS, local government and the voluntary sector, as well as two local sports Partnerships.
The Board focuses on a number of key prevention priorities, including:
Population Health Framework
To make sure we consistently tackle the prevention priorities across Cheshire and Merseyside, we have developed a framework for prevention. This framework promotes the integration of services and the development of multi-disciplinary and multi-sector teams, working together to improve population health. This includes individual care management, the mobilisation of community assets, commitment to integrated care models, and making every contact count across sectors – as well as population-level interventions such as improving access to employment and workplace health and education.
The NHS Prevention Pledge
To help ensure prevention is embedded across all NHS providers across Cheshire and Merseyside, we are developing a pledge with a set of core commitments designed to benefit patients and staff. This pledge will help NHS providers to become anchor institutions and system leaders in prevention.
Make Every Contact Count (MECC)
MECC is about encouraging and helping people to make healthier choices in order to achieve positive long-term behaviour change. All our organisations can help support this through the contact they have with individuals. The Partnership is making sure all organisations pledge their commitment to MECC, as well as providing their staff with the training and development they need.
In September 2019, a Cheshire and Merseyside vision for population health event was held with senior leaders from health and care. Professor Sir Michael Marmot, world-renowned expert in population health spoke at the event, offering his expertise on the current state of health inequalities in the UK and worldwide, and what can be done to begin to decrease this gap, including developing ‘Marmot-friendly’ communities.
Both organisers and attendees of the event reached a consensus on key prevention priorities; it was also agreed that the sub-region would become what’s known as a ‘Marmot Community’.
Following recent meetings to progress this work, it has been agreed that the Health Alliance will conduct a piece of work to map out what improvement looks like in terms of an integrated health and care system, working to reduce the gap in inequalities in the region. A steering group will be brought together with representation from local places to build a grassroots approach to tackling health inequalities. A follow-on virtual session is also to be arranged with Sir Michael Marmot himself.