Check out our new paper “Applying the time needed to treat to NICE guidelines on lifestyle interventions” – just published in the BMJ-EBM.
While the beneficial effects of healthy lifestyle habits are uncontested, it is uncertain whether health professionals targeting individuals with unhealthy habits through lifestyle interventions is a feasible and effective way to achieve healthier lifestyle habits in the general population.
Our rough estimates suggest that the NHS currently does not employ enough healthcare professionals to implement all NICE-recommended lifestyle interventions to all eligible adults in the UK.
Full implementation could cause serious disruption of health systems due to extensive opportunity costs in terms of clinician time. In a previous project, we found that the lifestyle interventions recommended by NICE were rarely underpinned by reliable evidence of a beneficial effect.
Although the exact numbers from our study should be interpreted with much caution, our estimates have implications for guideline panels making recommendations in resource-constrained healthcare systems, demonstrating the usefulness of estimating TNT.
Our results can also contribute to the debate as to how best to improve the health of the population by promoting healthy habits and the relative roles that public health and clinical interventions play in achieving this goal.