Image: NHS Confederation
England's chief medical officer warned of the need to tackle rising rates of liver disease in her first annual report, which aims to offer a picture of the nation's health.
Professor Dame Sally Davies (pictured) said the disease was the only major cause of mortality and morbidity on the increase in England and it comes as rates across the rest of Europe are decreasing.
“Between 2000 and 2009, deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the under 65s increased by around 20 per cent while they fell by the same amount in most EU countries,” said the report.
Three main causes of liver disease were highlighted in the paper, all of which are preventable: obesity, undiagnosed hepatitis infection and harmful alcohol use.
It recommended several measures to tackle these problems, included public health policy initiatives to tackle obesity and curb harmful alcohol consumption.
Campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of liver health were also recommended, with Dame Sally's report saying that the threat of liver disease is often underestimated because it progresses unnoticed for many years.
The report is the first of two volumes of what will now be an annual report from the chief medical officer, compiling national public health data on so that local authorities and local health professionals are able to prioritise healthcare improvement efforts.
“I strongly believe that data and scientific evidence should be at the heart of policy making and advice to government and have reflected this in the annual report,” said Dame Sally. “Data should be used to inform our action on public health and to evaluate the effectiveness of that action.”
She continued: “I hope the data that I have provided will become a major tool for the Department of Health, Public Health England, health professionals and local authorities as they draw up their strategies for improving public health.”
Other priorities described in the report include a need to improve access to diabetes care, with only half the people registered as living with the condition receiving the annual checks recommended by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The need for Public Health England to capture data on long term conditions, such as dementia, was also highlighted by the report. The body was created as part of NHS reforms in England and Wales, and was designed to “protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing”.
Volume two of the 2011 report, which will look at infections and infectious diseases, is due to be published early next year.