UK: Alarming Lack of Public Understanding about Liver Disease
New data from a CommRes study published on The Lancet’s latest Liver Commission report highlights an alarming lack of public understanding about liver disease in the UK.
According to the study only one in 10 people can correctly identify all of the three main risk factors of liver disease – alcohol use, obesity and viral hepatitis. These preventable factors account for 90% of all liver disease.
The UK’s leading hepatology consultants and senior figures from the Foundation for Liver Research, British Liver Trust and Public Health England met on January 23, 2020 to discuss how to tackle the liver disease crisis in the UK.
More statistics on liver disease in the UK show:
- Liver disease has increased by 400% since the 1970s.
- Liver disease is the biggest killer of 35 to 49-year-olds.
- 90% of liver disease is preventable, yet it is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death in the UK in the next few years.
- Three quarters of patients are currently diagnosed at a late stage when there are very limited options for treatment or intervention.
Liver disease is a public health crisis which requires the government to lead on urgent action to combat the lifestyle issues notably alcohol and obesity and improve early diagnosis,” said Professor Roger Williams, Chairman of the Lancet Commission on Liver Disease, as per, British Liver Trust.
While public understanding is low, however, support for steps to be taken to combat the health issues that increase the risk of liver disease is very high.
- More than 70% of the public would like to see a reduction of sugar content in foods and healthier food and drinks to be made cheaper than unhealthier alternatives.
- More than half would like to see more calorie information on alcohol beverages.
Key messages and priorities from the Lancet Liver Commission report
- There is a further increase in the disease burden from alcohol consumption and being overweight or obese.
- The mortality for acutely sick patients with liver conditions admitted to district general hospitals is unacceptably high.
- An early detection programme in general practice is a feasible and logical proposition.
- The public awareness of liver health hazards is extraordinarily poor.
- Convincing the upper echelons of government of the need for fiscal regulatory measures, including minimum unit pricing, tax duty escalators, and a levy on unhealthy food content;
- Implementation by the National Health Service of a masterplan for hospitals and day-care treatments based on specific guideline bundles;
- Further investigation into the causes of cognitive impairment and consideration of meaningful survival in paediatric liver disease;
- Widening the effect of expert opinion on the present burden of liver disease through greater coordination with the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Colleges, and the Royal Society of London.
The commission has raised doubts about whether the initiatives described in the Government’s recent Prevention Green Paper, with the onus placed on individual behaviour, will be effective. The commission calls for urgent coordinated action to prevent unnecessary deaths and to reduce the enormous burden to the NHS.
For further reading:
Survey Findings presentation
Access the full presentation of the survey findings that were presented at the meeting here.