Making science work for health: towards personalised prevention

By Philippa Brice

6 November 2018


This week, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock launched a new vision for prevention of disease that sets out ambitions to improve the health of people in the UK by empowering individuals to manage their own health needs outside traditional care settings, and offering opportunities for more personalised prevention, earlier diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Prevention is better than cure: Our vision to help you live well for longer is a wide-reaching vision looking at the many factors that influence disease - social, environmental and behavioural as well as biological – in pursuit of the goal of improving healthy life expectancy by at least five additional years by 2035, and narrowing current health inequalities.

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The PHG Foundation welcomes the Minister’s ambitious and far-sighted approach to improving prevention, and in particular the recognition that both individual needs and preferences, and modern science and technologies, have important roles in achieving better disease prevention and care. Our organisational goals are to see a fundamental shift to personalised healthcare, necessitating:

  • Placing the individual citizen at the centre of health systems
  • An increasing emphasis on disease prevention
  • Radical reorganisation of services towards home or community settings where possible

With these goals in mind, our 2015 Health Innovation Manifesto called for the UK Government to take action to harness useful science and technology for patient benefit in the NHS by harnessing data, making the NHS innovation-ready, and putting individuals at the centre of their healthcare. Many of our specific policy aims in these areas are already well on the way to being met, not least the integration of genomics in mainstream medicine and the development of secure, interoperable NHS data sharing systems.

Today, we are delighted to see progress towards our aim that the NHS should move towards a paradigm of personalised disease prevention ‘to complement existing population-based approaches, building an NHS that supports people to make informed choices about the care that suits them’, as the Government has asked Public Health England (PHE) to investigate predictive prevention at scale with a view to swift implementation of useful findings.

We have always believed that science and technology have the potential to improve disease prediction and prevention, as well as earlier diagnosis and better management, and strongly endorse the decision to place responsibility with PHE for taking this forward alongside wide-reaching work by NHS England and NHS Digital to harness science and data for more personalised medicine and care.

Our current My Healthy Future project examines both the potential for new and emerging science to disrupt healthcare delivery, including with respect to personalised prevention, and the wider implications for people and policies this may have. We look forward to sharing these insights in 2019, and to working with our colleagues in PHE, NHSE and beyond to support healthier futures for all of us.

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