News & Insights 7 March 2016

NHS’s £3.5M One You Campaign encourages Britons to change unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, but is there a better way?

Today sees the launch of Public Health England’s One You campaign, the latest attempt to help us all make healthier choices and prevent us going on to develop the lifestyle diseases that are costing the NHS more than £11bn a year to treat.

People are asked to take a five minute quiz about key areas of their lifestyle before being given the results and advice about how to change the behaviours that are putting them at risk, like signing up to a slimming club or downloading a running app.

The sentiment is correct – we need to prevent diseases that are the result of unhealthy lifestyles, like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Unfortunately, this campaign is unlikely to make any significant impact towards achieving this aim. In fact, critics have branded the campaign “patronising” and “hectoring”, warning that lecturing adults as if they were children will most likely prove ineffective and a waste of money.

Chris Snowdon, Institute of Economic Affairs Head of Lifestyle Economics, has been particularly damning of the campaign, saying: “It is astounding that this hectoring quango is squandering £3.5m promoting a tedious website that nobody will visit. Where there is nothing wrong with health education, there is very little that is educational about this patronising money pit. Even when they are explicating targeting middle-aged people, Public Health England cannot resist talking to us as if we were children.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, is right when she says that “we all have the power to shape our future health by making simple small changes now.” But, to effectively change behaviour we need to engage, motivate and empower people to make their own choices – not tell them what to do. And that’s exactly what KiActiv® does – it powers the effective prescription of personalised ‘free-living’ physical activity for the prevention and treatment of lifestyle diseases.

As is almost always the case, the focus of the physical activity advice given in One You is on taking up sport and exercise, such as encouragement to go to a Zumba classes and linking to the NHS couch to 5k app download.

This, like many other campaigns, misses the point – there are different ways to harness the protective properties of physical activity because it has multiple independent biologically-important dimensions. Focusing on one dimension alone, like how many steps you take each day, creates a danger of developing a false picture of activity. Campaigns, like One You, should recognise that, as well as the oft stated reason for not being active – “I don’t have time” – many people really dislike exercise.

And that’s okay – you don’t have to exercise to gain benefits and prevent disease. There is no need to find time to squeeze a Zumba class or a run into an already busy life (unless you want to, of course) – anything that makes you move more and sit less will benefit your health. All those seemingly little movements can add up – the amount of everyday activity you get can easily add up to more minutes than a session at the gym. The key is finding what “counts” for you and deciding how you can fit more of these activities into your everyday life – that’s where KiActiv® comes in.

Find out how KiActiv® could help you in Our Solutions.

The KiActiv® Team