‘A plague of our times’: addressing health-related lifestyle choices in England

Matthew Callender, Judith Sixsmith

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


Recently, responsibility for public health commissioning in England was placed within local authorities and councillors in local authorities are now seen as key figures; “tak[ing] on leadership for public health at the local level” (Dept. of Health, 2012:6–7). It is critical that councillors, in their new leadership roles within public health, are consulted to establish their local health priorities. This study aimed to engage with councillors to identify health priorities, relating to the needs of local populations. This research reveals councillors perspectives on the health care needs of their local populations.

A mixed-methods approach was adopted involving a survey and semi-structured interviews. 105 councillors engaged with the survey, representing 33% of councillors in the study site, and 15 councillors were interviewed. Descriptive statistics were created from numerical data and qualitative data was subjected to thematic analysis.

The analysis highlighted health priorities alongside the need to address the ‘plague of our times'; the prevalent culture of complacency and risk-taking among local populations to improve health outcomes as defined in the Public Health Outcomes Framework. Councillors felt that addressing poor lifestyle choices and behaviours should focus on education. They also felt that the ultimate responsibility for health outcomes lay with individuals and their families, although there was some recognition that a range of organisations and communities also bear responsibility for the ways individuals make unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Addressing the health-related lifestyle choices of the local population was viewed a priority of participants and that we need collectively change in health-related choices and take actions to address the various ‘plagues of our time’. Suggestions, for culture change focused on the lifestyle choices of children and parents with little thought beyond the power of education.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe European Journal of Public Health
Issue numberSupp.3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2015


  • lifestyle
  • plague
  • health


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