The government has committed to ‘proactive prevention’ and community care in an interim report on its major conditions strategy, published this week.

The strategy aims to tackle the prevalence of six major conditions that together drive over 60% of mortality and morbidity in England: cancer, chronic respiratory disease, dementia, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and mental ill health.

The full five-year major conditions strategy will be published next year, with an interim report published this week setting out the government’s commitments so far and where it plans to focus in the future.

In particular, the government said that it will work to prioritise ‘proactive prevention by managing personalised risk factors’, such as smoking and obesity, which the report said are drivers for several of the major conditions facing UK adults.

The government also hopes that tackling multimorbidity will help to combat the potential for adverse drug effects caused by patients being prescribed medication for multiple conditions.

And it said that the major conditions strategy would consider how different factors – such as ethnicity, deprivation, gender and inclusion health – impact disparities in health outcomes.

The report outlined steps that the government has already taken against lifestyle risk factors like smoking, such as a free ‘swap to stop’ vaping kit for existing smokers, and obesity, such as a pilot to make weight loss drugs more accessible outside hospital settings.

It added that it was working with stakeholders and industry to reduce sugar, salt and calories in food, working on a new sport strategy to encourage people to get active.

And it highlighted commitments to reduce exposure to the most harmful air pollutants, improve the quality of rented housing and encourage cycling and walking.

The interi report also said that embedding early diagnosis and treatment in the community would be important to improve population health.

It highlighted the recent £645m investment in community pharmacy as a means to bringing services into the community and make it easier for people to access diagnosis and treatment.

And it said that it was increasing the number of people who self-monitor issues such as blood pressure at home, and making this as convenient as possible for them and their general practice.

The report also highlighted the cancer referral pilot trialling how community pharmacist could be trained to spot early signs of cancer, such as patients who repeatedly buy medicines to manage symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, breathlessness, changes in bowel habits or bloating, and refer patients for screening.

Another major condition highlighted in the report was musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, which affects 20 million people in the UK and is the leading contributor to the global burden of disease. The government said that it would be looking to improve the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions to help patients manage MSK pain.

Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) Steve Brine described the publication of the interim report as ‘a welcome step forward.’

He added that major conditions were a ‘crucial part’ of the HSCC’s ongoing inquiry into preventing ill-health.

And he said that the committee was looking forward to ‘scrutinising the final strategy when it’s published in full’.

‘Prevention is the new cure so while the strategy will be welcome, its fast implementation and political will across Government will be the test of whether it moves the dial,’ he said.