‘Problems of today and tomorrow’: prevention and the National Health Service in the 1970s

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A consensus developed around prevention in the early 1970s as a response to epidemiological studies that had highlighted smoking, diet and physical inactivity as risk factors for chronic disease, especially heart disease. This reaction was catalysed by the financial pressures the National Health Service (NHS) was experiencing, the 1974 reorganisation of the service and international awareness of the Lalonde report. Such widespread interest resulted in three different but contemporaneous reports on prevention in 1976 and 1977. All three emphasised, to varying degrees, personal responsibility and lifestyle as important tenets of prevention. This article focuses on Prevention and Health: Everybody's Business, a 1976 discussion paper published by the four governments of the UK, to explore this preoccupation with disease prevention throughout the decade, and what it reveals about public health in Britain, political attitudes to the NHS and the changing relationship between citizenship and the welfare state.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2019


  • prevention
  • National Health Service
  • public health
  • individualism
  • citizenship


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