Britain needs more public health interventions to tackle the rise of “lifestyle” diseases, academics suggest.
“Theories of practice and public health: understanding (un)healthy practices”, published in Critical Public Health, is a new paper written by Dr. Stanley Blue, lecturer in Social Sciences at The University of Manchester. It insists that a development in public health policy is required.
Dr. Blue explains that currently, health policy aims to influence individual behaviour, with people being encouraged to make beneficial lifestyle choices like reducing the amount of fast food they eat.
However, using the example of the smoking ban, Dr. Blue suggests that public policy should place more attention on breaking destructive social habits, Before the smoking ban, people would often go out for a meal or and have a cigarette as they did so: the two activities went hand in hand.
Similar relationships exist nowadays, and they are causing a number of lifestyle diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) disease, cancer, and asthma. Exercise and eating are fundamentally social practices which according to Dr. Blue, necessitates a re-shaping of what is deemed socially acceptable.
“Current public health policy is dominated by the presumption that individuals are capable of making “better” choices for themselves on the basis of information given to them by the government or other agencies. This does not account for the fact that practices like those of smoking an eating have histories of their own.
“Trying to get individuals to stop smoking or eat healthily overlooks the fact that these are fundamentally social practices.”