25/04/2006

Government launches public health initiative

A major new public health initiative has been launched by the government.

'Small change BIG DIFFERENCE' is a new initiative which shows people how they can improve their future health and well-being by making small, easily achievable changes to their lifestyles.

The new initiative was launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Public Health Minister Caroline Flint on Tuesday.

Ms Flint said: "We all know that we should eat more fruit and veg and get more exercise to improve our health but sometimes improving our own health can be daunting.

"Small Change BIG DIFFERENCE is about showing people that there are everyday, simple choices they can make in their lives which will have a direct impact on their health. Eating an extra piece of fruit or walking up the stairs can help people add years to their lives."

The initiative is supported by new research which reveals that simple steps - such as getting off the bus a stop earlier, walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift or eating an extra piece of fruit or vegetable a day - could achieve major health benefits no matter when people start.

The research, published today by Professor Kay-tee Khaw from Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine at Addenbrooke's Hospital showed the impact dietary changes and increased physical activity can have on major causes of death and ill health like cancer and cardio vascular disease.

The study looked at over 30,000 people aged from 45 to 79 living in Norfolk. While eating the recommended five a day could give someone the life expectancy of someone three to four years younger, the research found, even one additional serving of fruit or vegetables would increase the chances of staying alive longer.

The research also suggested that the results for increasing physical activity were similar. Even very moderate amounts of physical activity at work and during leisure time can add up to three years.

Taken together improved diet and increased physical activity, as well as stopping smoking, could add up to 11-12 years to an individual's life expectancy, the research claimed.

Professor Khaw said: "Many of us find it difficult to change our usual lifestyle. However, there is increasing evidence that even relatively small changes can make a big difference to our health and well being."

(KMcA/CD)

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