How much taxpayers' money local authorities spend on schemes to encourage "healthy lifestyle choices" has been revealed in a TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) report.
TPA published the paper that claims to assess the effectiveness of four types of public health schemes in 171 UK health authorities on Wednesday (November 1).
According to the TPA public health programmes to stop residents smoking, reduce their alcohol and sugar intake and encourage more exercise are "remarkably bad value for money."
Buckinghamshire was one of the UK health authorities that doesn't measure any of its public health schemes for cost effectiveness.
Chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, John O'Connell, said: "Taxpayers have had enough of being told what to eat, drink and how to spend their leisure time.
"Those who do want to make lifestyle changes are free to do so if they choose - there is no need for bureaucrats to blow our taxes on good behaviour schemes, especially if they are not measured for cost effectiveness.
"Education and information will mean that people can make up their own minds without the need for expensive and meddlesome projects."
Figures in the report were obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 171 local health authorities across the UK.
National averages spent on public health programmes in 2015 to 2016
The total average spend for each of the 171 public health authorities assessed in the report was £1,679,721.
Stop smoking programmes
On average, each public health authority spent £718,634.
Physical activity programmes
These programmes were intended to to encourage residents to take up sport on a regular basis.
This amounted to £484 for each person who subsequently took up sport at conclusion of the programme.
The west London borough of Richmond paid the highest per person for their physical activity programmes, spending on average £2,212 for each person who subsequently took up sport.
The average spent on schemes to reduce the weight of participants amounted to £912 for each person who lost weight.
Alcohol intake reduction programmes
Public health authorities in the report spent an average £1,059,136 on programmes to reduce people's alcohol intake.
This amounted to £4,601 for each person who reduced or stopped their consumption of alcohol.
Kensington and Chelsea health authority spent most on alcohol reduction schemes with an average.
Buckinghamshire public health authority spending
According to the TPA report from 2015 to 2016 Buckinghamshire spent a total of £797,000 on programmes to improve public health.
The amount it spent on schemes to reduce the alcohol intake of its residents was not made available nor was the cost efficiency of these programmes.
But figures obtained through an FOI request show that 132 of the 284 people that accessed the programme reduced their alcohol intake.
The health authority spent a total £122,000 on schemes to reduce obesity in the area.
Of the 2,680 residents who accessed the scheme, 1,473 lost weight meaning a cost of £83 per successful result.
A hefty £675,000 was spent on stop smoking programmes in Buckinghamshire.
1,535 of the 2,765 who accessed the scheme successfully quit smoking - a cost of £440 per quitter.
No money was spent on programmes to encourage an uptake in exercise in Buckinghamshire.
Bodies in charge of public health spending in London and England have slammed the TPA reported and defended spending of healthy lifestyle schemes describing them as "vital".
'Smoking cost the NHS £2.6 billion in 2015'
Director of health improvement at Public Health England, Professor John Newton, said: "Public Health functions in local government are valuable in their own right and deliver savings for public services and for society by helping people quit smoking, eat better and stay healthy.
"Smoking cost the NHS £2.6 billion in 2015 - for every £1 invested by councils, over £11.38 is saved over the lifetime of a smoker who quits.
"Local councils know how to use their resources to good effect, and it’s right that they decide what is best for their areas working together with the people they serve."
Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Linda Thomas, said: "Public health services are playing a vital role in improving the health of children, young people and adults, reducing the need for treatment later down the line and easing the pressure on the NHS.
"Councils follow expert guidance and internationally-renowned evidence to inform their commissioning decisions and measure effectiveness of the public health services.
"It is indisputable that preventing ill-health is a far better use of taxpayers’ money than treating illnesses.
"The TPA’s methodology is fundamentally flawed by failing to take into account that different populations have different needs and costs.
"It is also wrong to ignore the benefits of public health spending in the context of costs to society.
"According to a systematic review of the available evidence, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, every £1 spent on public health saves on average £14 and in some cases, significantly more than that.
"About a third of all deaths could have been prevented by lifestyle changes undertaken at an earlier time of life.
"If this avoidable ill-health could be reduced the savings would be considerable. Investing in prevention ultimately saves money for other parts of the public sector by reducing demand for hospital, health and social care services and ultimately improves the public’s health."
You can read the full TPA report here.
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