'Prevention is better than cure: our vision to help you live well for longer' policy paper

6 September 2018

In Prevention is better than cure: our vision to help you live well for longer, the Department for Health and Social Care set out ambitions to improve healthy life expectancy by at least 5 years by 2035 and close the gap between the richest and the poorest. The policy paper focused on preventing health problems from arising and helping people to manage health problems that do arise.

The policy paper also announced plans for a green paper on reform proposals for prevention, which it published in 2019.

In the foreword, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock discussed the need for cross-societal action on prevention, recognising both individual responsibility and 'how the wider environment we live in determines our health.'

The paper defined prevention as 'helping people stay healthy, happy and independent for as long as possible'. While acknowledging the role of health and social care in keeping us healthy, it outlined potential improvements and challenges relating to four aspects of prevention:

  • healthy lifestyles
  • living conditions
  • employment
  • social connections.


Public health stakeholders and commentators welcomed the recognition of prevention in principle. Public Health England's Chief Executive Duncan Selvie described it as a 'transformative moment for public health'.

The promise of a prevention green paper was well received, but the King's Fund criticised the lack of detail and specific commitments in the policy paper.

The Labour Party responded that the government's new emphasis on prevention followed austerity cuts to primary services in recent years and the Royal College of Nursing highlighted the challenge to achieve such an agenda in the context of further planned cuts to local authorities' public health budgets.

Later developments

In November 2018, to support its vision, the government published case studies of effective approaches to prevention. Examples included Mental Health Outreach programmes in East London, Moorfields Eye Hospital and Early Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation in Hampshire.

The Prevention Green Paper was published in July 2019.


Department of Health and Social Care.
Prevention is better than cure: Our vision to help you live well for longer.
Department of Health and Social Care; 2018.

Buck D.
Prevention is better than cure – and actions speak louder… [webpage].
King's Fund; 2018.

The Independent.
People must take more responsibility for their own health, says health secretary Matt Hancock.
The Independent; 2018.

Selbie D.
Better Health for all: A new vision for prevention.
Public Health England; 2018.