The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has published two new Local Government Public Health Briefings, offering advice on encouraging public behavioural changes and walking and cycling for healthier lifestyles.

The move comes as local governments are preparing to take on a wider role in public health from April this year, with the Institute now offering support in the form of "specially tailored briefings", detailing which actions are most effective in improving the health of people while also providing the best value for money, in addition to its ongoing programme producing public health guidance.

As NICE points out, conditions linked to sedentary lifestyles, including coronary heart disease and diabetes, cost the National Health Service around £1.06 billion every year in the UK, with the wider costs relating to lost productivity hitting a whopping £5.5 billion a year in England alone.

According to the Institute, encouraging and enabling walking and cycling not only improves health and wellbeing, but also brings added benefits of reducing congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions, while "cyclists and pedestrians also provide a substantial economic boost to local shopping streets".

It stresses that many facets of local government have the power to support walking and cycling, and its briefing sets out what actions can be taken "to make a real difference".

Elsewhere, levels of many chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer can be improved by changing behaviour, and NICE's related briefing could be particularly relevant to health and wellbeing boards carrying out joint strategic needs assessment and creating joint health and wellbeing strategies, it said.

Commenting on the briefings, Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, said: “addressing both of these issues will help local authorities meet their forthcoming statutory duties to improve the health of their communities," and he stressed that "the examples of good practice given in the briefings, along with quick facts and figures, make a case for action". 

GSK commits to public health pact

Meanwhile, drug giant GlaxoSmithKline said this week that is has signed up to the government's Health Responsibility Deal, promising to reduce the calorie and sugar content across its drinks portfolio.

The Public Health Responsibility Deal aims to tap into the potential for businesses and other influential organisations to make a significant contribution to improving public health.

Organisations signing up commit to taking action voluntarily to boost public health through their responsibilities as employers, as well as through their commercial actions and their community activities.